Wednesday 3 April 2013

The ‘Aspen Daily News’ reported yesterday that the city’s energy efficiency programme is ‘working too well’. To be fair the comment was journalistic and the Mayor of Aspen actually said the issue is ‘a good problem to have’. Aspen’s electricity demand has been declining by 1.3 per cent annually since 2008 even while the number of electricity accounts has gone up by about 2 per cent a year. Two years ago the city had estimated that electricity consumption would fall by 1 per cent a year. Although the article doesn’t give data on the state of the Aspen economy over the period a quick internet search suggests that the upmarket ski resort is doing well – employment has risen 7.38 per cent in the last year (compared to a US average of 0.35 percent) and tourism continues to thrive with a 10 per cent increase in lodging occupancy in the year from July 2011.

 

The impact on electricity demand seems to have been achieved by a combination of a tariff structure in which large users pay higher rates – sometimes as much as four times more than the base rates – and energy efficiency programmes including weather proofing, energy audits and the installation of upgraded equipment. The effect on the city’s utility was that electricity revenues were 5 per cent ($370,000) down on budget – a ‘significant shortfall’ – and as a result rates will have to be increased.

 

The interesting thing about this story is that Aspen’s experience shows that it is possible to decouple electricity usage and growth in the economy – something that is still considered impossible by many energy analysts. Other cities (and countries) should look closely at the Aspen example.

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Dr Steven Fawkes

Welcome to my blog on energy efficiency and energy efficiency financing. The first question people ask is why my blog is called 'only eleven percent' - the answer is here. I look forward to engaging with you!

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