Climate Action & Sustainability

Summit County is employing a variety of climate change mitigation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These strategies address the emissions of both County government and the larger Summit County community.

Strategies include building efficiency improvements, renewable electricity generation, transportation electrification and transportation system improvements, among others.

Solarize Summit

This summer, HC3 and the Summit Climate Action Collaborative are offering residents and businesses an opportunity for significant discounts on solar panel installations. Participants in Solarize Summit can leverage bulk-purchasing power to take advantage of exclusive discounts. Discounts increase as the number of participants increases. Thanks for your interest, but registration for 2020 Solarize Summit program has closed.

Learn more about Solarize Summit.

Summit Community Climate Action Plan

The Summit County Board of Commissioners adopted the Summit Community Climate Action Plan (CAP) on April 23, 2019. The plan sets goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Summit County 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, relative to a 2005 baseline. The plan also outlines recommended strategies to be pursued over the coming years to achieve those emissions reductions.

Solar panels in Frisco

Summit Climate Action Collaborative

In February 2018, Summit County began participating in a community-wide effort to develop and implement a climate action plan through the Summit Climate Action Collaborative. High Country Conservation Center (HC3) is facilitating the collaborative, with participation from Summit County, local towns, ski areas, utilities, Summit School District, Colorado Mountain College and other key stakeholders.

The Summit Collaborative hired Lotus Engineering and Sustainability to support the development of the CAP and complete an initial community-wide GHG emissions inventory for Summit County. Like many communities, emissions in Summit County are largely generated through energy use in buildings and transportation – 65 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in Summit County.

Plan Development and Implementation

The Summit Community Climate Action Plan is currently being reviewed and adopted by Summit Climate Action Collaborative member organizations, and all participating organizations are dedicating staff time to participate in development and implementation of the policies, programs and initiatives identified in the plan.

Over a six-month timeframe, the collaborative developed recommended approaches for reducing locally generated GHG emissions, which were then modeled for their emissions-reduction potential. The collaborative solicited input from energy experts and the larger community. The CAP outlines strategies to reduce energy use in buildings, increase the supply of clean renewable energy and reduce emissions from the transportation and waste sectors.

Through the collaborative, the County and towns plan to work with Xcel Energy, Mountain Parks Electric and other community partners to jointly develop and implement plans, programs and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout Summit County. The collaborative approach is intended to maximize efficiency and coordination, minimize duplication of efforts and create a shared community roadmap for implementation that fosters a holistic evaluation of key opportunities across jurisdictions. 

Plan Priorities

Key implementation priorities include: 

  • Develop a shared work plan to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity countywide by 2035
  • Transition to electrification of the transportation sector, reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles and increase use of public transit, walking and bicycling
  • Amend local building and land use codes to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy installations, EV charging infrastructure, transportation connectivity and multimodal access, recycling and food scrap collection and water conservation in new developments
  • Streamline the solar permitting process and implement Solarize Summit County, a bulk-buy solar photovoltaic program for local property owners in Summit County

100% Clean Vehicle Commitment

In September 2020, Summit County adopted a resolution committing the community to 100 percent electric and zero-emission vehicles in the community by 2050, declaring Summit County a GoEV County, and pledging to draft an EV Readiness Plan with implementation strategies to electrify the county fleet, public transportation, ride-share serves, and passenger vehicles.

100% Renewable Electricity Commitment

In February 2018, Summit County joined the Town of Breckenridge in adopting a resolution committing to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

In 2018, seventeen County facilities were subscribed to 100% clean solar power through Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect Program. The Renewable Connect subscriptions, together with existing rooftop solar PV systems, have helped to make a total of eighteen County facilities now 100% solar powered, including the County Commons, Justice Center, Frisco Transit Center, North Branch Library, Breckenridge Facilities Shop and many Public Works buildings. Overall, a substantial percentage of the electricity used by Summit County facilities is generated from renewable sources.

Compact of Colorado Communities

In May 2017, Summit County signed onto the Compact of Colorado Communities, along with the Town of Breckenridge, Town of Frisco, Eagle County and Pitkin County. By signing onto the compact, communities commit to establish a climate action plan or measurable emissions reduction goal within 24 months, announce the plan or goal publicly and provide updates on plan implementation.

Energy Successes in County Facilities

During the past several years, Summit County has been working to improve the energy efficiency of County buildings, including a number of upgrades that have achieved significant energy and cost savings. Many of these projects were funded through a ballot measure approved by Summit County voters in 2008.

Summit County is working with Building Technology Systems (BTS), the County’s contractor for building controls, to utilize Energy Print, an online building energy tracking system that monitors monthly utility data for more than a dozen County facilities. By tracking energy use, we're able to investigate issues with the County’s existing buildings and figure out the best solutions to save staff time and money. Our monthly BTS reports enable us to make better decisions about how to save energy and then prove the return-on-investment for every change we make across all our buildings.

Some of the key building improvements made over the past few years include:

  • Replacing the lighting in County buildings with high-efficiency, longer-lasting LED lighting to dramatically reduce annual energy use and the maintenance associated with bulb replacements
  • Upgrading County buildings with new building control systems to better monitor and control all heating and air-conditioning systems
  • Installing new high-efficiency boilers at the County Commons and Justice Center
  • Installing occupancy sensors throughout the Fleet Maintenance Building
  • Replacing the heating system at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) with radiant propane heat and programming the building controls to power down and avoid heat loss when the doors are open, reducing the utility costs for the MRF by more than 50 percent.  

By identifying energy-savings opportunities and making building performance improvements across the County’s facilities, energy cost per square foot decreased approximately 10%, carbon emissions per square foot decreased 9%, and energy savings exceeded $150,000 annually since 2017.