Breckenridge seeks public comment on potential outdoor energy mitigation program Support Local Journalism

After the Breckenridge Town Council shared its support of a potential outdoor energy mitigation program in July, the town is now seeking feedback from the public.

The Renewable Energy Mitigation Program would create a way for homeowners to offset carbon pollution from outdoor amenities using excessive energy, such as snowmelt systems, natural gas fireplaces, heated pools and large hot tubs. It would do so by:

People will be encouraged to first reduce their outdoor energy use when building a home, then offset outdoor energy use with an approved renewable energy system like solar panels and pay a fee if there is still excessive energy use. Existing appliances regulated for the program would be grandfathered until they need to undergo a major replacement or upgrade.

The fee would be based on the cost for installing the necessary renewable energy systems and fund additional sustainability and energy efficiency efforts in town.

Breckenridge Sustainability Coordinator Jessie Burley said because of challenges with implementing the Summit Sustainable Building Code, getting public feedback early can make sure everyone understands the program and is on board.

Breckenridge seeks public comment on potential outdoor energy mitigation program Support Local Journalism

“In light of some of the challenges in rolling out the sustainable building code in the last year and a half, we thought it would be prudent to get out in front of the building and design community in order to make sure that it’s been fully vetted,” Burley said.

With a technical advisory group already in place for the sustainable building code, Burley said a subgroup has been looking closer at the energy mitigation program. High Country Conservation Center Climate Action Director Jess Hoover said stakeholder meetings have mostly wrapped up, and the program is getting ready to go back to councils.

The town released a short video sharing high-level details of the program in hopes that people will have a good grasp on the program’s intentions and provide feedback. Burley said there is no official language in terms of a town ordinance or code amendment to comment on yet, but the video should give a good picture.

In the video, Hoover presents a tentative energy-use calculator, which she said is available to anyone through the town’s community development department. The calculator shares what would be required to be installed to offset the energy use or what the equivalent fee would be based on the square footage of the outdoor amenity proposed.

As local jurisdictions within Summit County set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, Hoover said outdoor energy use is under-regulated or unregulated in most jurisdictions despite its significance. She also reiterated that the program doesn’t prohibit outdoor energy use; homeowners and developers just need to offset whatever energy the systems use.

Burley said the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program is important as the town tries to balance being an environmental leader while still providing amenities that come with a resort lifestyle — some of which can conflict with climate action goals.

“This is an opportunity for us to start addressing that at a transparent level, tracking what we do have in existence, and then working toward mitigating and slowing down the impact of those luxuries,” Burley said.

Hoover said that while the solicitation of public comment is a town process, she believes allowing the community to provide input ensures better community buy-in.

“When introducing new programs such as this, it’s important to introduce the public to them so that everyone has a chance to learn and weigh in before things get finalized,” Hoover wrote in an email.

Anyone from the public with comments or questions on the program can send them to sustainablebreck@townofbreckenridge.com through Jan. 15. Burley said the town is also planning to host an open house on Jan. 20, but she is unsure what the format will be given the latest public health mask mandate and rising coronavirus cases.

Then, Burley hopes to return to council in February to share the public’s input and discuss the next steps, including potential ordinance language. The Town Council would need to vote on code amendments to put the program in place.