Regional Sustainability Plan establishes lofty goals to change perception of area

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An arm of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments approved a sustainability plan last week packed with hefty goals that seek to turn the lagging region into a national leader in sustainability.

The plan is long on optimism — and work.

“Looking to our future — Pikes Peak Region 2030” identifies 10 topic areas to focus on in order to build the region into a center for sustainability.

The plan’s energy goal is to get half of the region’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 and reduce total energy use by 20 percent from 2010 base line.

The transportation goal is even bigger, asking that public transportation use grow and that half of all transportation-related fuels purchased in the region come from renewable or sustainable sources and that fossil fuel use be reduced by 40 percent from 2010 levels.

“The only way we can really achieve these goals is to create a paradigm shift,” said Rich Muzzy, the environmental program director for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. “We can’t go down the path of business as usual and accomplish these goals.”

Nearly all of the goals in the document will require major changes to the way the city and the people and companies in it do business. The dramatic changes and the extreme numbers create a sense of impossibility in the goals, which are aptly called “stretch goals” in the document.

“They’re intended to be stretchy,” Muzzy said. “There will definitely be challenges. There’s no funding, for one.”

Darlene Jensen, executive director of the Catamount Institute, hopes the plan will change the region’s identity.

“We’d like it to be that when you think of Colorado and sustainability, your first thought isn’t Boulder,” she said. “We want it to be Colorado Springs. We definitely have the ability to get there.”

The PPACG committee that approved the plan began working on it about two years ago with the aim of drafting a document outlining goals and strategies for achieving them.

This document should get the conversation started. The consensus committee plans to roll it out for community discussion at the Garrison Commander Sustainability Breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m. April 18 at the Colorado Springs Utilities Conservation and Environmental Center at 2855 Mesa Rd.

While designed to get community conversation flowing, Muzzy said there was one more reason for developing it now. It signifies the community’s commitment to help military installations, especially Fort Carson Army Base, to meet their sustainability goals and requirements.

Fort Carson volunteered last year to be one of two U.S. military bases in the world shooting for net-zero energy, waste and water by 2020. That means the base would produce as much as it uses and use as much it produces on site in the course of a year, said Ft. Carson sustainability director Mary Barber.

The goal is a big step up in ambition from an early target of getting 100 percent of the base’s energy from renewable sources by 2027. It has essentially bumped that goal up seven years.

The base currently gets just 3.2 percent of its power from renewable sources, Barber said.

“Our goals may be a little bit stretchy,” she said. “The benefit I see of having a stretch goal or something that seems almost unachievable is that it helps drive your actions toward achieving it. If we don’t get there, we will still make much more progress than we would have if we hadn’t been shooting for it at all.”

The base is currently working with an energy auditor who will recommend changes and improvements and will be paid for his work with the savings the base realizes from making changes. It’s also looking to build all new facilities to the highest sustainability standards and has been trying to get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for all of its new construction.

“But we can’t do this in isolation,” she said.

The base is looking to the community for support. While the Department of Defense specifies that the renewable energy needs to be generated on site in order for it to count toward the base’s net-zero status, Barber said she and others at Ft. Carson are hoping there might be some exceptions to that.

Ft. Carson is working with Colorado Springs Utilities to get more wind generated power.

John Romero, utilities general manager for acquisitions, said he is looking to acquire a wind resource from a distant farm through a third-part contract. The contract would have one- to two-year terms and would allow the city to purchase power at a slightly higher rate than traditional coal-fired power.

“Right now we’re just getting a feel for what the interest would be,” Romero said.

The idea seems to be gaining more traction than a previous proposal for the city utility to build its own 50-megawatt wind farm. City Council shot the proposal down in November, saying it was too expensive.

Romero said that building and owning a wind farm would cost in financing charges.

The military bases are the top of Romero’s list of interested parties, he said.

“It’s going to be pretty important for us to be involved in those discussions,” Romero said.

And discussions about sustainability on the bases and in the community will likely gain volume after the new plan is unveiled next week, Muzzy said.

Looking to Our Future — Pikes Peak Region 2030 stretch goals

Agriculture — Water conservation and efficiencies, sufficient water resources are available to meet agricultural needs, number of farmers increased by 100 percent

Arts and Culture — Diverse range of arts that attracts young creative workers. The region will have implemented the 2010 cultural plan to increase economic vitality.

Built and Natural Environment — Link built and natural environment, maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Economic Development — Diversifying the economy with increased jobs, expanding economic base and increased business profitability.

Energy — Energy use in the region is reduced by 20 percent from a 2010 baseline

Education — Higher education and professional and technical skills training are increasingly available to all residents.

Health — By 2030, the Pikes Peak region ranks in top 10 for individual and population health and well being.

Materials management and procurement — Reduce waste to landfills by 70 percent.

Transportation — Regional needs supported, half of all fuels are renewable, fossil fuels reduced by 40 percent.

Water quality — Region uses 100 percent of its reusable water supplies and residential water use is at or below 80 gallons a person a day.