SMPA Empowers Green Initiatives on Western Slope

By Ben Tisdel, Ouray County Commissioner

June 7, 2017

In the space of two weeks, many of us in the region have been on a roller coaster of news regarding climate change. 

First, Mountainfilm showed the full spectrum of issues through the theme of “The New Normal”. The devastating film “Chasing Coral” revealed the first time-lapse documentation of coral reef bleaching events related to ocean temperature warming. Paul Hawken’s book release of “Drawdown –  The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” gave us some hope, while “An Inconvenient Sequel – Speaking Truth to Power” showed just how far the conversation on climate change has come over the ten years since Al Gore brought national and global attention to climate change with “In Inconvenient Truth”.   

With Trump’s devastating message about pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord last week, I think it is critical to consider now how we can act as a region to halt and even reverse climate change.     

Our own Rural Electrification Authority Cooperative, San Miguel Power Association, is having its annual meeting and election of two of its seven-member Board of Directors this week, on Thursday, June 8 in Ridgway.    

SMPA serves the San Juan, Ouray and San Miguel county region. For years, it has brought us electricity on an affordable and reliable basis in one of the most challenging geographic regions of the continent. Over the last 10 years, it has also been focusing on bringing in quite an amazing renewable energy portfolio to its sources of electrical generation. And over the last two years, the SMPA board and staff have been important partners in regional efforts to bring more broadband internet distribution to our region.     

As the annual SMPA meeting approaches, I have heard many area residents expressing their desire for more progressive actions by the SMPA Board.  Thus, I want to make sure you are aware of many opportunities SMPA already provides for our region, setting us apart from other electric cooperatives. These SMPA programs help you reduce your electricity use and carbon footprint, saving you money and helping the planet. 

Your participation makes a difference, so please engage and take action! 

EcoAction Partners’ Greenlights program gives residents and businesses throughout SMPA territory the opportunity to purchase LED light bulbs at an extremely discounted rate of up to 75% off.  This discount is possible through rebate funding from SMPA and regional governments.  LED lighting reduces energy use from standard incandescent or halogen bulbs by at least 60%, saving money on electric bills!

The SMPA IQ Weatherization & Solar Program assists low to mid-income residents in making home energy efficiency improvements and participating in renewable energy. 

Established in 2016, the SMPA IQ weatherization program provides a free Home Energy Assessment to qualified renters and homeowners.  The most cost effective energy efficiency measures are prioritized and then implemented at no cost to the homeowner.  Energy efficiency should always be the first step prior to renewable energy, so once the home is weatherized, the member is eligible for a complimentary solar panel(s) in the new SMPA solar array built on the site of a former landfill next to the Norwood waste transfer station. This landmark program is made possible through partnerships with the Colorado Energy Office, Energy Outreach Colorado, GRID Alternatives, EcoAction Partners, The Telluride Foundation, E3 Insight and SMPA. 

The SMPA Community Solar array, located near Paradox and constructed in December, 2012 offers access to 1.1 megawatts of clean, renewable power for members who own panels.  The array completely sold out in 2015, demonstrating the high level of support for solar power and leaving a demand for the development of an additional community solar farm in the future.  Thus, EcoAction Partners worked with SMPA and Mountainfilm’s New Normal Initiative to create the SMPA Solar Power Pledge.  Show your support for SMPA to develop a new community solar array in the region.  Go to SMPA’s website link to fill out your pledge to purchase solar panels. Power produced by solar panels offset a member’s utility bills and increase renewable energy in our region.

SMPA has been making renewable energy a major priority for well over a decade.  Using the Green Fund, the cooperative has been consistently adding power from local, renewable sources without impacting rates for electricity.  The Green Fund was established to fund local renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. You can contribute to the Green Fund through two programs:

Green Blocks: This program allows members to draw their energy from 100% renewable sources through the use of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). These credits are called Green Blocks and cost $1.00 per block, per month. One block represents 100 kilowatt hours of renewable energy. Members can purchase as many blocks as they wish with 100% of the sales going to the SMPA Green fund.

Green Cents: Small change can make a big difference.  Green Cents participants have their power bills rounded up to the nearest dollar.  SMPA collects the extra and puts it into the Green Fund to support local renewable projects. 

SMPA’s energy efficiency and renewable energy rebate programs have been in effect since before 2008 and include rebates for LED lighting, electric appliances, energy audits and weatherization improvements as well as solar, wind, and micro-hydro power generation. Many SMPA members have taken advantage of these rebates to-date, achieving accumulated energy use reduction of 11,520,000 kWh and installing over 1 megawatt of additional solar net meter capacity in SMPA’s service territory.

SMPA staff actively works with governments, schools, and businesses to implement projects that significantly reduce energy use & costs for the governments and improve efficiency.  SMPA is also very active with the communities, including participation on the EcoAction Partners Board of Directors, Sneffels Energy Board, sponsoring & presenting at regional Energy Events such as the San Juan Sustainable Living Forum, Ridgway Riverfest, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council and the annual San Miguel Energy Forum.

San Miguel Power Association is YOUR cooperative.  You as members have a say in the direction the cooperative takes, and the board has consistently listened and responded.  Please make your voice heard in the upcoming SMPA election and at the SMPA Annual meeting, and take action by participating in the above programs.  San Miguel Power Association is a progressive utility working toward what is important to its members. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Originally published in the San Juan Independent