OURAY COUNTY – The City of Ouray and the Town of Ridgway have embarked on a joint venture to become savvier, more efficient energy consumers.
Ridgway and Ouray will engage the services of Ameresco, an independent energy services company, to conduct a technical energy audit of municipal buildings, facilities and utilities in each community, and to determine ways to make them more energy efficient.
If all goes according to plan, the two communities will then enter into an Energy Performance Savings Contract with Ameresco, which will implement the improvements. Each town will make back the cost of its up-front investment and enjoy substantial additional savings going into the future, due to lower energy costs.
The project will be partially funded by the Governor’s Energy Office, with additional funds invested by each municipality. Ridgway approached Ouray to partner in the venture about a year ago, because each town is too small to qualify under Ameresco’s criteria on its own.
The original audit scope for the City of Ouray’s participation included only its wastewater treatment plant, the city’s biggest energy consumer. This audit alone would have cost the city just $5,000 up front, but the scope of the project has since expanded to include municipal buildings and other facilities as well, increasing the cost of Ouray’s audit to over $24,000. (The cost of the audit is based on total square footage.)
After previously expressing some concern about this up-front investment, the Ouray City Council revisited the matter at its Jan. 17 meeting.
Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coates, who was present at the meeting, urged Ouray’s participation. She praised the “expertise and knowledge that the GEO brings to table” as well as Ameresco’s “guaranteed payback scenario.”
The Ridgway Town Council has already committed funds to move forward on the project, she said, and anticipates energy audits of its water utility and two municipal buildings in Ridgway. However, Coates said, Ridgway has been unable to enter a contract with Ameresco thus far because “there is an economy of scale that requires City of Ouray cooperation to move forward.”
After lengthy discussion, including a phone conference with an Ameresco official, the Ouray City Council unanimously approved entering into a contract with Ameresco for a Technical Energy Audit. If council had decided not to participate, Ridgway would have had to forfeit its involvement in the project.
Now that it has been approved on all fronts, the venture should proceed something like this:
• Ameresco will conduct a Technical Energy Audit of municipal facilities in Ridgway
and Ouray, and identify areas for energy efficiency improvements.
• Ameresco will then recommend an Energy Performance Contract to implement the recommended improvements. The cost of the contract for each community will be based upon realized savings from the recommended improvements.
• In addition, the TEA will provide financing options to each municipality. After the investment is paid back, each municipality keeps any additional savings realized from energy efficiencies going into the future.
• If Ameresco conducts the TEA and determines that no significant savings can be achieved, it will not charge the municipalities for their energy audits. If, however, the TEA is completed and either municipality chooses to not pursue the recommendations from Ameresco, then the municipality must pay the full cost of the audit.
Ouray City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli noted in a memo to council that Ouray County has already participated in the Ameresco program, “and reported that its overall savings have exceeded expectations from the TEA; they felt participation in the program was a success,” he said.
Ameresco, according to its website, has deep experience and expertise in the technical and financial aspects of community energy projects. It has a long history of building mutually beneficial relationships between local governments, their constituents and utility companies.
Contact Samantha Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org