Gunnison County Electric Association
Location: Gunnison, CO
Technology: Energy Audit
Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) formed in 1938, when a group of ranchers joined together to bring electric power to the Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. This same pioneering spirit continues today at GCEA, where they continue to look for innovative solutions to meet their customers’ energy needs. The cooperative provides service to over 10,000 homes, has a membership of about 7,900 and employs 40 people.
REAP funding, in the form of a $73,900 grant, helped GCEA launch, organize and equip an energy audit program for rural small businesses that ran from January 2010 to August 2012. The REAP grant and matching funds from GCEA provided cost-sharing for energy audits for local businesses, which were then responsible for just 25% of the cost. GCEA audited 38 businesses over the course of the program.
Following the energy audit program, an evaluation on behalf of the cooperative determined that audited businesses saved an average of 13,000 kWh per year for a total annual reduction of 150,000 kWh. The average business saw its electricity bill decrease by $450 per month — or $5,400 annually.
In addition to the energy audit initiative, GCEA has pursued a number of clean energy projects in recent years. Vicki Spencer was hired by GCEA in 2008 to spearhead the creation of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Due to the strong conservation ethic in their region, she said many members “wanted to see us doing more to reduce our carbon footprint in our area.”
REAP funds also helped cover promotion, training and labor costs for the program. The audit program resulted in four jobs, and Spencer estimates that it saved about 15 jobs in the community through energy savings and various partnerships.
“It truly makes a difference in our small community,” she said. “It’s hard to find well-paying, long-term, steady jobs, and so [REAP] really did make a difference.”
Though the formal program has ended, the benefits of the grant continue. Because the cooperative now has a trained auditor, all the equipment needed to perform audits, and the experience helping local businesses save on their energy bills, GCEA is now able to offer commercial audits at no cost.
“These programs are very important in rural communities, where we have greater challenges than in urban areas that have more resources available at lower costs,” Spencer said.