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Energy Efficiency Upgrades at City Facilities

Energy Efficiency Upgrades at City Facilities

Achieving Energy Efficiency in City Buildings

Preserving the health and sustainability of our climate has been valued by the Boulder community for many years. I t is important that the city leads by example and does its part to reduce the community's energy consumption and GHG emissions

The city Facilities and Asset Management (FAM) division continuously evaluates strategies to meet the energy needs of the city organization at the lowest cost, including conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. FAM's general policy is to complete energy-saving projects that have a payback of five years or less and to purchase hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles, where possible.  The Energy Performance Contract (EPC) completed in 2013  included energy-efficient indoor and outdoor lighting, occupancy sensors that control lighting, and HVAC system upgrades. The new HVAC and lighting systems use less energy and are designed to last longer.

Learn about the city's energy efficiency projects and goals by opening the tabs in the menu below. 

Current City Building Energy Use

The City of Boulder annually completes energy rating and reporting of all city-owned buildings 5,000 sf and larger and each building’s energy performance metrics are publicly available. The city will use this information to help prioritize efficiency improvements as part of the city’s ongoing energy efficiency efforts .

What does ‘building performance’ mean?

The metrics disclosed include energy use by fuel type; total energy use; and energy use intensity (EUI), or energy consumed per square foot of building area in the given year. In general, the lower the EUI, the more efficient the building. However, the energy use in a building varies greatly depending on the space use and building type and public buildings often contain unique uses. For example, buildings such as fire departments, recreation centers, and water treatment facilities typically have higher energy use than office buildings.

Because energy use varies by building type, Portfolio Manager assigns an ENERGY STAR score * (1 to100) that indicates how the building is performing compared to other buildings of similar use type. A score of 1 represents the lowest energy performance compared to like buildings, a score of 50 represents the median energy performance, and a score of 75 or better indicates the building is a top performer and may be eligible for  ENERGY STAR certification .

The city is considering ENERGY STAR certification for its buildings that scored above 75; however, many city-owned buildings are not eligible for an ENERGY STAR score due to their use type. For example, libraries, service centers, recreation centers, and fire stations are not eligible to receive a score. As a result, the city is reviewing the EUI of these buildings compared to similar buildings in the city’s portfolio, national data from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)**, and similar buildings in the private sector as data is available.

* Not all property types are eligible for an ENERGY STAR score and a full list of eligible property types is available on the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR website

** As calculated by ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager:

Energy Performance Contract (EPC)

In June 2009, the City of Boulder partnered with the Colorado Energy Office on an Energy Performance Contract (EPC),which has enabled the city to make significant energy efficiency upgrades to 66 city facilities.

The EPC allowed the City of Boulder to enter into a 2009 lease purchase agreement with McKinstry to implement efficiency upgrades that will be paid off over time using the guaranteed savings from reduced energy and water bills. The upgrades do not cost Boulder taxpayers any additional money and the community will benefit from reduced operations and maintenance costs.

The city's strategic investments in energy efficiency, renewable technologies and water-saving devices will be offset by decreased utility bills and maintenance costs.

The EPC project is a prime example of city programs that are both environmentally and fiscally responsible.

Employee Awareness and Engagement - powerED Program

The powerED program is part of the Energy Performance Contract and is an employee behavior change campaign intended to reduce energy consumption in city facilities. The program began in 2014, and focuses on three areas:

  • People:   engage occupants and increase awareness;
  • Process:   engage operators and optimize systems; and
  • Performance:   energy savings progress tracking and reporting (using a dashboard).

For more information about the powerED program, visit


The Energy Performance Contract (EPC) is a three-phase project.

Phase I

Work was completed in 2010 and included:

  • solar photovoltaic installations at the Main Boulder Public Library and at all three recreation centers;
  • re-lamping of the Mapleton Ballfields; and
  • HVAC controls and lighting improvements at the Park Central Building, Meadows Library, North Boulder Recreation Center and the West Senior Center.

Phase II

Work was completed in 2011 and included:

  • solar thermal installations at the East Boulder Community Center and the South Boulder Recreation Center;
  • lighting upgrades and water conservation measures at certain city facilities;
  • solar photovoltaic systems at the Betasso and 63rd Street water treatment plants, Municipal Services Center, Open Space and Mountain Parks Cherryvale offices and the Facilities and Asset Management facility; and
  • various HVAC upgrades and controls.

Phase III

Work was completed in 2013 and included:

  • $3.1 million in retrofits in city buildings, including:
    • solar photovoltaic installations at the Municipal Services Center, the FAM-Fleet offices, and the Open Space and Mountain Parks Annex;
    • building automation systems and SmartBuilding controls in 28 city buildings;
    • HVAC upgrades at the water treatment plants;
    • lighting upgrades and additional bike path lighting;
    • other miscellaneous work, such as converting electric heat systems to natural gas.
  • Approximately 336 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic installations, totaling $1.8 million.
  • SmartBuildings and employee education efforts.
  • Approximately 2,000 metric tons of additional carbon dioxide emission reductions. The additional 6 percent of carbon dioxide emissions reductions, combined with 17 percent reductions from Phases I and II, will help the city accomplish its goal of a 20 percent overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

New to the EPC will be the inclusion of tenants' improvements to The Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder Municipal Airport hangars and other facilities.

Accomplishments and Energy Savings


  • A total reduction of 18,113,180 lbs of CO
  • A total savings of $667,614 in utility costs.
  • A total reduction of 7,883,532 kilowatt-hours.
  • A total reduction of 180,680 therms.
  • A total reduction of 2,796 kilo-gallons of water.
  • To date, these efforts have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 20 percent.

Water Conservation
Water conservation measures at certain city facilities, such as the replacement of existing water fixtures with low-flow devices, has resulted in a total reduction of 2,796 kilo-gallons. These improvements help to preserve Boulder's invaluable water supply while simultaneously reducing energy use.

The city's facility maintenance backlog will also be reduced by $1.8 million due to the installation of newer, more efficient and longer-lasting equipment.

Improvement Examples

  • Installing variable frequency drives that will adjust circulation automatically to meet needs versus running 24 hours a day for items like pool pumps and HVAC fan motors.
  • Replacing chillers and boilers and adding controls that address building comfort levels.
  • Weatherizing 43 buildings.
  • Replacing existing water fixtures with low-flow devices.

Project Costs

With the EPC, energy improvements are completed in city facilities and paid for over time with guaranteed savings from electricity, gas and water bills. Once the city pays off the lease agreement, it will continue to save money on its annual energy bills and maintenance costs.

By leveraging rebates and grants associated with the planned upgrades, the city will be receiving more than $11 million worth of upgrades at a cost of $7.8 million. The $7.8 million is paid for over 13 to 15 years with the money that would have gone to pay utility bills if the upgrades had not been made.

Essentially, the city is not spending additional taxpayer money on this project.

Phase I, II and III Financing

Phase Total Project Value Xcel Solar Rewards Rebate Xcel Standard Offer Rebate Total Project Cost to the City
I $2,888,711 $632,064 $80,885 $2,175,782
II $8,138,999 $778,000 $417,230 $6,942,869
III $5,205,250 $75,000 $58,878 $5,071,372

Phase I's total cost to the city was paid for using:

  • $1.5 million from a Qualified Energy Conservation Bond (QECB);
  • $213,500 from an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG); and
  • $462,261 in city capital.

Phase II's total cost to the city was paid for using:

  • $6,398,033 in financing;
  • $146,499 from an EECBG;
  • $50,000 from the Colorado Carbon Fund; and
  • $398,337 in city capital.

Phase III's total cost to the city was paid for using:

  • $3,241,229 in financing; and
  • $1,524,460 in city capital

Solar Power Systems at City Facilities

Solar Thermal Systems

Solar thermal systems at the East and South Boulder recreation centers to help offset the cost of heating the swimming pools. The two systems will save the city $14,657 per year and reduce annual carbon emissions by more than 125 tons. When it was installed in 2002, the solar thermal system at the North Boulder Recreation Center was one of the city’s largest solar power systems.

Solar Electric Systems

In 2011 and 2012, the Energy Performance Contract with the Colorado Energy Office allowed the city to install solar electric systems at 15 city facilities, including:

  • all three Boulder recreation centers;
  • the Main Boulder Public Library;
  • the Betasso and 63  rd  Street water treatment plants;
  • the Facilities and Asset Management buildings and the Fleet garage;
  • the Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Annex, Cherryvale, and Ute buildings;
  • the Municipal Services Center; and
  • The Dairy Center for the Arts.

Solar electric systems offset a portion of city facilities' electric consumption and reduce the load on the community's electric grid. The collective electric output of the systems is more than 1.4 million kilowatt-hours per year. A combination of decreased electric costs and renewable energy credits will save the city $162,655 per year and reduce annual carbon emissions by more than 1,233 tons.

Donated Solar Electric Systems
The solar electric systems at the George Reynolds Branch Library, Park Central building, and Municipal building were donated to the city in 2008. Bella Energy donated and installed the library's solar electric system, while anonymous donors funded the systems at the Park Central and Municipal buildings through the Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC).

Wastewater Treatment Plant Solar Electric System
During the past four years, the one-megawatt solar photovoltaic system at the city's Wastewater Treatment Facility has generated more than six million kilowatt-hours of electricity, saving utility ratepayers more than $200,000. The system began generating clean, renewable power in August 2010 and has operated efficiently and reliably ever since, producing about 14 percent of the facility’s annual power needs.

Electric Gauges

Electric gauges provide real-time measurements of each city facility's electrical consumption and solar production, and are used to regulate the solar power systems, enabling the city to reduce peak loads and achieve even greater energy savings through demand-side management.

Use the links below to view facilities' solar production and electrical consumption in real-time (updated every minute).

City-controlled emissions sources

Inventory boundary: all facilities and vehicles operated by the City of Boulder, not including those leased to others or jointly-owned facilities and vehicles