Lessons for Grid Resilience from Colorado’s Upper Roaring Fork Valley

The risk of major power disruptions from fires and other natural and manmade hazards seems to be increasing and has become the subject of national and international news. At the same time, entire communities are more reliant on energy-dependent services. As a result, reliable power, and more specifically, planned grid resilience is a growing concern for electric utilities across the nation.

This report examines the outcomes of a multi-month Rocky Mountain Institute-supported process to “create” resilience involving utility Holy Cross Energy and various other organizations in Colorado’s Upper Roaring Fork Valley. It highlights key lessons that will be invaluable to energy resilience planning and implementation efforts around the world.

Among these lessons is that when community stakeholders work closely together with the local utility, there is the potential for more efficient solutions with greater benefit to all parties involved. Additionally, resilience-related investments in emerging technologies such as solar and battery storage can simultaneously take advantage of cost declines while advancing regional clean energy ambitions.

Holy Cross Energy’s intensive stakeholder engagement and iterative planning process proved imperative to ensuring grid resilience for their community. In addition, the Upper Roaring Fork Valley experience resulted in conclusions relevant to grid resilience efforts everywhere:

  • Distributed clean energy solutions should be considered as part of any resilience planning process
  • Effective planning for power supply resilience through distributed solutions requires a partnership between the utility and its community
  • Business model and ownership structure innovations may be necessary to ensure that resilience-related investments can provide year- round (“blue sky”) benefits during normal operations as well as backup (“black sky”) benefits in the event of an emergency or grid outage