Case Study: 100% Renewable Electricity at Aspen Electric by 2015

Case Study Title: 100% Renewable Electricity at Aspen Electric (municipality) by 2015
Organization: City of Aspen
Author(s): Ada Christensen, Chris Menges, Will Dolan
Submission Date: 12/16/14
Location: Aspen, CO


The City of Aspen’s 100% renewable energy (RE) by 2015 goal is one component of a broader strategy to reduce both the City’s operational and community‐wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 30% below 2004 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2004 levels by 2050.

Background Information

A renowned tourist destination, the beautiful City of Aspen is located in the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado and is home to just over 6,600 people. 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.


In 2014, the City’s energy portfolio is expected to be ~86% renewable, with the following breakdown by source type:

  • 56% Hydro

  • 30% Wind

  • 12% Coal/Gas

  • 2% Nuclear


Reductions in GHG emissions, low and stable electricity rates for our customers, and setting an example for other communities to follow suit and protect the environment and our economy. In 2012, Aspen Electric’s rates were the  7th lowest among the Colorado’s 27 municipal electric utilities (Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities, 2012 Power Cost Survey).


Despite its uniquely accommodating and flexible nature relative to nearly every other energy pool membership, our contract with our wholesale energy supplier, MEAN, has limited the types and scopes of renewable projects we are able to pursue. The politicization of the renewable topic in general has also hindered progress towards our goals. The Canary Initiative goals and Action Plan have helped to focus and motivate staff, Aspen City Council, and the community to continue progress towards 100% renewable energy.