Clean Power

Published on September 15th, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers

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Aspen Stands Tall As Third US City Achieves 100% Renewable Electricity

September 15th, 2015 by  

Aspen, the Colorado skiing-Mecca, now stands tall as a renewable energy visionary, having become one of three US cities to run on 100% renewable electricity.

aspen sign_shutterstock_151278773

This news was recently reported by The Aspen Times, citing staff members at Aspen’s environmental and project departments. The City of Aspen, a famed tourist location in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, serves a population of  just over 6,600 people, and its renewable power supply comes from a combination of wind, hydro, geothermal heat, and solar.

The plan for shifting to renewable energy and meeting the challenges of climate change dates back to 2005. According to Chris Menges and Will Dolan, from Aspen’s Sustainability and Utility departments:

“In 2005, the City created the Canary Initiative, which identifies Aspen and other mountain communities as “canaries in the coal mine” with respect to their sensitivity to the effects of climate change. Aspen relies on a stable climate and thriving natural environment for its economic viability and quality of life. In 2007, Aspen City Council adopted the Canary Action Plan, committing to the GHG reduction goals.”

The first two US cities to reach the goal were Burlington, Vermont, followed by Greensburg, Kansas.

Aspen’s transition to 100% renewable occurred September 10, after the city signed a contract with wholesale electric energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska in order “to achieve this final leg of our goal,” city Utilities and Environmental Initiatives director David Hornbacher said.

Aspen receives wind energy from four wind farms in Nebraska and South Dakota, and the city also uses energy from Ruedi Reservoir, Maroon Creek, and Ridgway Reservoir, a hydropower facility near Montrose. Two utilities, Aspen Electric Utility and Holy Cross Energy, serve the community.

Mother Nature Network reports other cities aiming for 100% renewable electricity include Copenhagen, Denmark; Bonaire, a Caribbean island; Munich and Frankfurt, Germany; San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, California; Sydney, Australia; and Isle of Wight, England.

Photo: Aspen sign via Shutterstock


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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.



  • Terry Mapes

    I’ve seen some rather lengthy explanations of what people think is happening here, but there is one critical topic which has been overlooked. Let’s say the actual fuel mix for electricity entering Aspen via the grid is 10% renewable and 90% conventional. Now let’s say that as a result of their recent claim as a 100% renewable electricity city that the people in the city become more complacent about turning off lights and appliances. Let’s say that as a result of that complacency the town uses 10 kWh/day more electricity than it normally would. No matter how much they pay to offset their usage, 90% of that 10 kWh/day is going to come from conventional sources and will contribute to an increase in greenhouse gases. By claiming that the town is 100% renewable, they have undermined the importance of conservation. People will still increase greenhouse gases if they leave their lights on and it doesn’t matter how much they offset their usage with money for renewable projects.

  • GaelanClark

    Allrightie then…..it’s 1am Sept 18th, in the land of the super wealthy feel gooders (Aspen, that is) and the base load requirement looks to be 4640 kilowatts and the hydro stations are only pushing 83% (3860/4640=83%)…..WOW!!!!!!! 17% of solar…at 1am…this isn’t Alaska on June 21st (LOL). Wind not blowing much at night…..ohhhhhh pooooh.

    Just say it enough times and people will believe it…….Ohhhhh, I do get 100% renewables, ohhhhhh I do get 100% renewables. Okay Dorothy, that govt man behind the curtain has done did voted on getting 100% renewables, and come rain or shine or dark of night…..you keep believing that you are going to get them.

    Because you get to pay more for it, one way or another.

    And, with no one in town, fairly warm considering the winter temps….how is this going to look in January?!?!

    • Bob_Wallace

      You’re kind of slow on the uptake, eh, Gaelan?

      Aspen is producing, from renewable sources, 100% as much electricity as it consumes.

      Chew on that for a while and see if you can understand what it means.

      • GaelanClark

        Hey clown boy, Aspen “produces” all of 92kW through solar pv for heating water at their water treatment plant.
        I guess you can’t read too well, or maybe you just don’t understand electricity production that well. To your illiteracy, the article shows you where they buy their renewables. To your illiteracy, a commenter provides the Aspen/Pitkin energy consumption and usage meters. Further to your illiteracy, the numbers I showed above came from that sight. From your illiteracy, can you describe how someone who is using 4640kW and is only getting 3640kW from renewables is getting “all” of that power from renewables….where does the rest come from…..at 1am in the morning?
        So, thank you for your missive, as uninformed and unintellectual as it may be, but please do spit out your curds in explaining how Aspen “produces” all of its renewable energy.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We don’t permit name-calling on this site.

          If you would like to repost your input in a more civil manner you can give that a try.

          • GaelanClark

            No name calling allowed…..check.
            Allowing ignorance, illiteracy, factoess assertions…..check.

            Now, how does Aspen get 100% renewables when total power consumption is greater than total renewables available?…….oh, too busy deleting messages to deal with the substance…..check.

            The numbers I used in my initial comment come from Aspen govt website. You cannot hide the invonvenient truth that the sun doesnt shine at night and the wind is not there either. So, much to the chagrin of you environmentalists (oh poooh, did I call you a name?), 90% of the renewables are from HYDRO!!!

            Deal with the facts…..it is a feel good lie to claim rhat Aspen will get 100% renewable eletricity.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You are correct. The Sun does not shine at night. (You probably are not the first person to make that observation.)

            Now, let me try to explain some things to you.

            Hydro is one type of renewable energy.

            There was no claim that Aspen is running off renewable energy it produces 24/365. The report is that Aspen is now producing as much renewable electricity as it consumes.

            This was discussed a few days ago which you would have seen had you read the comments.

            In fact, I brought up the problem of labeling six days ago. Here’s my comment copied from further down the page…

            “It’s unfortunate that a city/location is said to be “100% renewable” when it generates as much renewable electricity as it uses.

            That creates the opportunity for the naysayers to do what you have done.

            We need a new expression.”

          • GaelanClark

            “The report is that Aspen is now producing as much renewable electricity as it consumes.”……….no, it is not.

            Please review the available information and correct yourself. A cursory examination of the facts, total power consumption vs total power from renewables shows that at most hours of the day, for most days of the year…..renewables are short of the total power required for the town.

            If you repeat a lie, you are a liar.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Galen, let’s try this one more time. You apparently failed to read the article, at least with understanding, so I’ll copy the salient part down for you…

            “Aspen’s transition to 100% renewable occurred September 10, after the city signed a contract with wholesale electric energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska in order “to achieve this final leg of our goal,” city Utilities and Environmental Initiatives director David Hornbacher said.

            Aspen receives wind energy from four wind farms in Nebraska and South Dakota, and the city also uses energy from Ruedi Reservoir, Maroon Creek, and Ridgway Reservoir, a hydropower facility near Montrose. Two utilities, Aspen Electric Utility and Holy Cross Energy, serve the community.”

            “Producing”, in this case, means causing to be produced because Aspen is purchasing only renewable energy.

            I’m not sure why you have your bloomers so twisted over this. The article is very clear, had you read it with understanding we wouldn’t’ be wasting our time.

            Aspen has done a very, very good thing. By purchasing only renewable energy the town has decreased the market for fossil fuels and helped reduce our CO2 emissions.

      • GaelanClark

        And what of your response to this salient and key fact…..Aspen produces les than 100kW using solar pv for heating water at their water treatment plant. They buy the rest from windfarms in Kansas and hydro plants located close by. How do you support your assertion that “Aspen is producing,” anything more than a couple hundred kW per day?

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Producing” was a poor word choice on my part.

          The article is very clear that Aspen is sourcing as much electricity from renewable sources as it consumes.

          Is that precise enough for you?

          Now, let me ask you. Why are you so (apparently) opposed to clean energy?

          • GaelanClark

            I am not opposed to clean energy, or renewable energy for that matter. What I am opposed to is this articles headline….false, misleading, and a verifiable lie.
            How about, “Aspen seeks to source 100% renewables.”, or….”Aspen voted on a feel good measure to try to get 100% renewable electricity.”—-uummmm, not so headline grabby though, huh?
            How about a little parity?….when enviromentalists would block every single hydro electric dam that was ever built and yet they claim the usage of power from those sources as their own….something is wrong.
            The headline of this article is a provable lie and was easily crosschecked by looking at their power consumption at 1am…17% gap and it is still warm outside.

            Why are you so opposed to telling the truth?

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Aspen Stands Tall As Third US City Achieves 100% Renewable Electricity”

            “Achieves”

            From Merriam Webster –

            Full Definition of ACHIEVE

            transitive verb

            1: to carry out successfully : accomplish

            2: to get or attain as the result of exertion : reach

            intransitive verb

            : to attain a desired end or aim : become successful

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/achieve

            Perhaps had you known the meaning of the word achieve you could avoided working yourself up into a full lather.

          • GaelanClark

            I wish that you were so resourceful in looking up the inconvenient data…you know, the ones that show Aspen doesn’t get 100% renewable electricity.

          • GaelanClark

            They “achieved” 80% renewables at 2:30am on Sept 21 and on the same day at 9:31am they “achieved” 50% renewables!!!! (3754kW renewables vs 7376kW consumed)

            WOW!!!!!

            And yet, the headline is not misleading…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Gaelan – you’ve ridden this pony about as far as it’s going to take you.

            You’ve made your point, worthless as it is.

            There are times at which the electricity flowing into Aspen is likely coming from ‘dirty’ sources. No one has disputed that nor claimed otherwise.

            But net electricity, Aspen is now purchasing as much clean electricity as it uses. If some dirty flows in at times than simply means that somewhere else, at some point in the day, another place is using more clean electricity and less dirty.

            And that other place is getting clean energy because Aspen made it so.

            If you drop your attitude and think things through you should be able to understand what Aspen has achieved.

          • GaelanClark

            So……Aspen hasn’t “achieved” 100% renewables?

          • GaelanClark

            I wonder, did you actually have to look the word up to understand what it means?

            Why don’t you be a dove, and look up what an intransitive verb is…(snnnnicker)

            Achieve means that you Did…..not that you are going to do, or that you wish you could do…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Gaelan, any more of your bullshit and you are going to go away.

            If you’d like to stay around and discuss clean energy and EVs then clean up your game.

          • GaelanClark

            Oh, meanie you are! I am “going to go away”?!?

            You want to “inform” me on language and you don’t even get it!! I will laugh for a long time on that.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No further warnings.

          • GaelanClark

            What a bitch ass you are….Aspen is STILL NOT GETTING 100% RENEWABLES PROVING YOU ARE A LIAR AND I GET DELETED! !!!!!!!

            Ohhhhhhhh BOOOOOOOOOOOO the HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
            BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO the HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

          • Knetter

            Just ban the troll. There’s nothing misleading about the headline; either you’re an idiot or trying to decieve.

          • GaelanClark

            Oh yeah….I thought “we” don’t allow name calling…….
            eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • CaptD

    Despite “Energy nitpicking” this is a big deal because yet another US city has done what they need to do, to claim to be powered by 100% Renewable electricity.

    We all need to encourage ever more cities to do the same thing because only then will the USA be able to cut the fossil/nuclear generation “habit” that is holding US back, despite what those that seek to profit from traditional electrical generation say.

    Only Solar (of all flavors) offers it owners the ability to become energy independent since everything else forces you to be remain “enslaved” to monthly bills from your Utility and/or your gas station, now that you can recharge your own eVehicles, thus eliminating yet another monthly expense (after your Solar initial installation is repaid).

  • Roger DePoy

    Aspen may well claim to use 100% renewable energy, but claiming it doesn’t make it so. Unless the energy source has dedicated transmission lines going solely to the end user in Aspen, the electricity they’re using is the same electricity that everyone else is using. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their initiative and their support of renewables, but using the grid to transport electricity, while claiming that it’s 100% renewable, is disingenuous.

    • GCO

      If Aspen produces or buys enough renewable electricity to cover all of its usage, it can legitimately claim its supply be 100% renewables, fair and square.

      Electricity is fungible, electrons are the exact same whether pushed by nuclear or solar, so it wouldn’t make sense to separate transmission grids.

      On the other hand, each kW⋅h produced can obviously only be sold and used once. If someone buys that “solar kW⋅h”, that person gets to claim to be solar powered, while whoever bought the “fossil kW⋅h” can’t, regardless of whether the wires are shared or not.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s unfortunate that a city/location is said to be “100% renewable” when it generates as much renewable electricity as it uses.

      That creates the opportunity for the naysayers to do what you have done.

      We need a new expression.

  • Kraylin

    I agree with the other commenters wanting clarity between renewable energy and renewable electricity…

    Additionally, although a wonderful accomplishment… population 6600 people is far from a meaningful reduction in overall emissions etc in the US… This barely covers a dozen buildings in a major city or could easily be provided by just one major solar/wind project…

  • Gary Jacobs

    That’s nice, and while I sincerely applaud you…before you break your arm patting yourselves on the back we might ask what type of power do the visitors to Aspen use to get to this remote location? How many celebs or rich peeps roll in with a massive SUV, chopper in with the fam, or take a private jet?

    • Glenn Meyers

      Thanks for providing this perspective.

  • vensonata

    Add Vancouver to the list of wannabe 100% renewable cities.

  • jeffhre

    Why do we keep saying 100% renewable energy – instead of 100% renewable electricity?

    • JamesWimberley

      We, white man? Commenters here regularly call out careless bloggers on this. Zach should send round a memo.

      • jeffhre

        We my brotha’, as in I can’t get my brothers like Glenn Meyers to, Oh wait the title is – 100% Renewable Electricity now…never mind bro!

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