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Mountain News: Ski towns and valleys step up energy changes

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Wally White, a La Plata county commissioner, told the newspaper that he wants to know more. "Government has a responsibility to lead on these kinds of conservation issues," he said.

In Telluride, the town government is considering adoption of a mandatory offset program similar to that pioneered in Aspen in 2000, with later incarnations in Snowmass Village, Eagle County and other mountain towns and valleys.

The concept assumes that homes and businesses have minimum energy needs, but large homes with outdoor spas, swimming pools or snowmelt systems have obligations to offset their so-called extravagant use with renewable energy systems or in-lieu fees. In Aspen, those fees have amounted to $8 million, which has been doled out to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

"It's not that we all want to be ascetics and not have any fun and live in the dark, but we do need to be very aware of the choices we make in our personal lives," said Kris Holstrum, executive director of the New Community Coalition, a non-profit that formulated the proposed regulations in Telluride.

Mayors of Telluride and Mountain Village have also announced their goal - if they can get town council and community backing - of creating renewable energy sources sufficient to offset 100 percent of the electrical consumption in the Telluride area by 2020.

In Gypsum, located 37 miles west of Vail, town officials have applied for nearly $1 million in federal stimulus moneys in hopes of replacing an aging water line. The new line, if approved, would include a hydroelectric component, capable of generating 65 kilowatts of electricity, or roughly enough to offset the demands from the town's recreation center, and possibly enough to meet the needs of the wastewater treatment plant.

Up the valley at Edwards, a 5,890-square-foot home has been certified to LEED gold, the second highest in the hierarchy of environmentally benign homes under the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system. A HERS (Home Energy Rating System) analysis found the home will use 62 percent less energy than other homes of the same size built to the applicable building code at the start of construction, the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.

In Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, a deal has been struck between Avon town officials and directors of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. Heat generated in treatment of wastewater will be extracted to melt snow in the town's forthcoming Main Street area and also to heat the town's recreation center. Enabling the project was a $1.5 million grant from Colorado state government under a program encouraging energy efficiency.