Boulder's Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Measure our present. Design our future.
It’s our community, our climate. And it’s up to us to shape a vibrant, resilient and sustainable future. Measuring progress on emissions reductions helps us track our progress and identify new opportunities to lessen our contribution to climate change. It also helps us understand which areas of change are under our control, and which areas require collaboration with others. By expanding existing programs, developing new approaches, engaging with community partners and sharing efforts and best practices, the city hopes to catalyze climate action throughout Boulder and beyond.
Since 2005, community emissions have remained fairly constant despite growth in population, jobs and economic activity. The Boulder community has been able to head off increasing emissions through innovative efficiency action and other voter-supported climate action initiatives. Our goal now is to build on this success and foster economic vibrancy while reducing overall emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 from a 2005 baseline. Read more about our community climate commitment .
Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory (2015)
Since 2005, Boulder has published updates to the greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to share our community emissions data. Using a new methodology, the latest inventory (calculated for the 2015 calendar year) includes more GHG sources than earlier inventories, holding Boulder to a higher reporting standard and giving a more accurate representation of our contribution to climate change.
The 2015 update was calculated in a new data reporting tool that calculates emissions using Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), the new recognized standard for GHG emissions reporting.
In any inventory year, factors such as heating and cooling degree days, economic trends, and significant local developments impact emissions, requiring careful attention to and consideration of these factors in mapping overall emission trajectories to measure progress and inform next steps in policy and action.
Boulder's Emissions: Present and Future
Boulder’s climate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2050. As of 2015, Boulder emits nearly two million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year. This means that each resident, on average, is responsible for 17 metric tons per year. By 2050, Boulder wants to produce less than 400,000 metric tons of GHGs, or three metric tons per person.
In comparing Boulder to other communities, it’s clear that we have an opportunity to reduce our GHG emissions. Transitioning our community to clean, local and reliable energy is key to achieving our climate goal and building community resilience.
Where do Boulder's GHGs come from?
Nearly all, or more specifically, 96 percent, of Boulder’s emissions come from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. More than half of Boulder’s total emissions come from electricity generation for uses such as lighting and cooling buildings. Natural gas, which is used primarily to heat buildings, accounts for an additional 14 percent. Gasoline, diesel and jet fuels account for nearly one-third of overall emissions.
Who emits GHGs?
Homes, businesses, factories, schools, and local government buildings account for 68 percent of Boulder’s total community GHG emissions. The commercial and industrial sector (C&I) includes business and industry, and represents the greatest opportunity for reductions. The city has developed several new energy policies and programs for the C&I sector that launched in 2016 and 2017 including rating and reporting and net zero energy codes.
Our Electricity Supply-Colorado Xcel Energy
All electric customers in Boulder currently receive their electricity and natural gas from Xcel Energy. The types of energy Xcel incorporates into its electricity resource mix influence the carbon intensity of Boulder’s electricity, and therefore the GHG emissions related to energy use in buildings.
With the increase in renewable energy resources mandated by the Colorado Renewable Portfolio Standard, Xcel’s use of coal and natural gas decreased between 2005 and 2015 while use of wind increased. This shift impacts Boulder’s net emissions: carbon intensity went down despite electricity use going up. It also underscores the great potential of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases. Be that as it may, regulated utilities in Colorado are only required to implement the amount of renewables prescribed by state mandates. Research shows that responsible climate action will require a much faster and more robust transformation than current mandates, and include closing more coal plants than is currently planned.
Community investments in Renewable Energy
The Boulder community has made a significant commitment to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar . Today, Boulder is recognized as a platinum-level Solar Friendly Community . Local, or rooftop, solar energy reduces the amount of electricity consumed from traditional sources, such as coal. Local solar grew nearly 17 megawatts (MW) between 2005 and 2015, and more than five MW have been installed since 2012. The city has plans to ramp up efforts to support the installation of more local solar on both residential and commercial buildings by providing residents better access to solar potential information.
Emissions vs. Economics
Boulder’s economy improved while GHG emissions fell. This represents a significant achievement for our community. The nationwide economic recession that impacted Boulder during the mid 2000s and the significant economic recovery that had taken place by 2012 must be considered when looking at total community energy use and emissions.
Taking Climate Action - We Don't Just Measure
Boulder values sustainability, and is currently working on a number of sustainability initiatives—from renewable energy to alternative transportation, zero waste, local food, and economic vitality. Boulder’s biggest success in stabilizing emissions has been in the areas of waste, vehicle transportation and per capita residential energy use—all areas targeted by the city’s climate programs and related initiatives between 2005 and 2015.
It’s our climate, our community. Learn more about how you can get involved with Boulder’s energy future.