Key Account Spotlight Q&A: Eagle County

We’re featuring our partners who help contribute to Holy Cross Energy’s goals and are leaders in the areas of sustainability and climate action.

We’re featuring our partners who help contribute to Holy Cross Energy’s goals and are leaders in the areas of sustainability and climate action. We recently met with Eagle County’s John Gitchell, environmental manager and Seth Bossung, energy efficiency project manager to chat about the County’s new electric vehicle chargers and plans for future beneficial electrification.

What is Eagle County currently doing to make sustainability and climate action a priority?

Gitchell: Eagle County has a long standing commitment to environmental protection. In 2012 the county adopted an environmental policy setting priorities for wildlife habitat, waste reduction, water conservation, and climate protection. We set a goal to reduce our energy use and cost by 15 percent by 2015, and we accomplished that by working on building energy efficiency and renewable energy. Investments in solar and LED lighting upgrades saved over $200,000 that year, a good start.

Eagle County Fast Chargers

(Left to Right) Left to Right: Seth Bossung, Eagle County; Mike Steiner, HCE; and John Gitchell, Eagle County pose in front of the new fast charging station at the Eagle County Maintenance Service Center.

The county’s GHG emissions footprint from operations at that point was around 9,500 metric tons per year. County-wide emissions in 2014 was at 1.4 million, our community’s  Climate Action Plan baseline. As we engaged with other large organizations as part of the Climate Action Collaborative, we’ve all started to look at the bigger picture of where our community emissions are coming from. In county operations our continued focus on energy efficiency measures and renewables is returning over $400,000 per year in savings. Now we’re setting our sites on a transition to cleaner fuel for transportation and heating buildings.

Our Climate Action Plan goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025 and by 80 percent by 2050 from baseline 2014 levels. Thanks to our participation in HCE’s PuRE program, we’re now closer to that goal.  

The biggest chunk of community-wide emissions is from transportation fuels. Eagle County has three electric buses arriving over the next month, and we’ve also got a handful of smaller EV’s (electric vehicles) in our fleet. We want to make it easier for our residents to choose EVs over traditional gas-powered cars, so we’ve installed EV chargers at all public county buildings including El Jebel Community Center, at the county Airport, and Justice Center. 

Tell us about the new EV chargers in the county and how they benefits residents. 

Bossung: When people see an EV charger in front of an Eagle County building, it serves as reminder that we are responding to our resident’s requests for increased sustainability and our goal to go electric with transportation. Residents can use charging stations for free when accessing county services, and employees have an option to charge their personal EV at work. We also recognize that not everyone has a garage to charge so these locations are beneficial for apartment dwellers and renters who may not have the ability to have a charging station at home. 

Solar panels on top of the Eagle County Maintenance Service Center

Solar panels on top of the Eagle County Maintenance Service Center

John Gitchell and Seth Bossung in front of an Eagle County EV

Eagle County’s Seth Bossing and John Gitchell in front of a county EV

LED Lights

Eagle County is transitioning lighting in their Maintenance Service Center to LEDs

Eagle County free charging locations: 

  • Eagle County Building, 551 Broadway Street, Eagle
  • Eagle Park and Ride, 955 Chambers Ave., Eagle
  • Eagle County Community Center, 20 Eagle Drive, El Jebel
  • Eagle County Airport, 219 Eldon Wilson Road, Gypsum
  • Eagle County Maintenance Center, 3299 Cooley Mesa Road, Gypsum 

Tell us about some of the challenges you face implementing the county’s renewable energy goals. 

Bossung: A challenge with buildings is around thinking ahead with some of this. Challenging misconceptions and the status quo of, say, using certain types of building materials or mechanical systems over more sustainable and efficient ones because that’s the way it’s always been done. Switching to high-efficiency electric heating systems is an example – we wouldn’t be having this conversation 5 years ago. 

Gitchell: We’ve had an incredible amount of support from county commissioners who are 100% behind doing our part at the county toward climate protection, resilience, and community well-being.  Our community is receptive and ready to take action. Our big challenge is finding the ways to move together as a community, on scaled actions that cut GHG emissions and protect our climate. Switching quickly to clean fuel sources for buildings and vehicles is a big part of that. 

Where do you see the Eagle County in 10 years?

Gitchell: Further electrifying our fleet and our buildings using 100% percent clean, renewable power in all of Eagle County operations. Let’s produce as much as we use, and let’s only use 100% renewable..

Bossung: We would love to be an example of what a community can achieve when different groups of people come together towards a common purpose. We want to tackle these difficult problems and we recognize how urgent the task is.

Gitchell: We’ll continue to seek opportunities to cut community-wide emissions, improve our resilience against climate related risks of drought and wildfire, and the ongoing and future threats with COVID-19. 

How can HCE members further help with your renewable energy goals? 

Gitchell: Swap out that gas powered car with an electric vehicle and take advantage of HCE’s free charger. Better yet, ride a bike or hop on the bus – our buses are going electric! Also if you’re replacing your boiler or furnace, consider the new generation of electric heat pumps – the technology is cleaner, more efficient, and produces less emissions. Our partners at Walking Mountains Science Center have an incredible amount of resources available for all of us interested in cutting costs, reducing health and safety risks in buildings, and cutting our carbon footprint.