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Boulder Energy Challenge

Boulder Energy Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Boulder Energy Challenge!

Emissions Reduction Projects:

  • EVmatch: EVmatch Community Charging Network
    • EVmatch will leverage its existing mobile software application to rapidly build a community EV charging network in Boulder, CO, leading to increased EV charging reliability and a corresponding increase in electric vehicle miles traveled. EVmatch’s application allows any EV driver to find, reserve, and pay for use of a station in a few quick clicks, eliminating the stress and hassle in finding a place to charge. The application includes reservations, payment processing, a review system, and a pricing algorithm that accurately estimates the cost of each charging transaction.
    • Grant award: $50,000
    • Watch the project application video.


  • Rocky Mountain Institute: Unlocking Leasing Solutions for Net Zero Energy
    • This project aims to significantly accelerate the adoption of advanced green lease practices in Boulder and be a flagship for innovative commercial green leasing nationwide. RMI will launch a Boulder focused training and outreach campaign to drive broader adoption of NZE (net zero energy) leasing and best practices and alternative mobility strategies. The outreach campaign will provide tailored trainings to building owners, tenants, and brokers and work directly with four of the biggest or most influential property owners/managers in Boulder to provide direct consulting and assistance.
    • Grant award: $49,100
    • Watch the project application video.

Community Mobilization Projects:

  • C3 Boulder & Impact Hub Academy: Boulder.Earth Community Portal
    • This BEC grant will fund the Climate Action/Engagement Web Portal—Boulder.Earth. The portal bridges the disconnect between existing organizations and volunteers working toward climate action in Boulder by providing a centralized communication and connection hub. This online community, available to all, will help to maximize resources, engage volunteers, and increase collaboration across the spectrum of climate action stakeholders.
    • Grant award: $38,500
    • Watch the project application video.


  • The Just Transition Collaborative: Toward an Equitable Energy Transition for the City of Boulder
    • This project will build deeper representation of underserved communities and advance equity in climate and energy decisions, communication and planning in the City of Boulder. It will guide Boulder’s Climate Action Plan and implementation to be equitable, inclusive, and socially just and to cultivate a socially just green economy. In collaboration with community partners, the project will pilot an inclusive renewable energy and energy efficiency workforce development program. The team will also conduct research to guide equitable policy and measurement in areas of transportation, household energy, and green jobs. This will include researching and mapping existing programs and policies in related areas, evaluating them through an equity lens, and proposing targets, policy priorities, metrics and data collection methods.
    • Grant award: $20,000
    • Watch the project application video.


Finalists of the 2017 Boulder Energy Challenge

Emissions Reduction Strategy Finalists:

Community Cycles: Bicycle Mobility Information Center
EVmatch: Evmatch Community Charging Network
Goose Creek Community Land Trust: The North Street EcoDistrict Woonerf
Rocky Mountain Institute: Unlocking Leasing Solutions for Net Zero Energy

Community Mobilization Finalists:

c3 Boulder & Impact Hub Academy: Boulder.Earth Community Portal
The Just Transition Collaborative: Toward an Equitable Energy Transition for the City of Boulder


The City of Boulder launched a second round of funding through the Boulder Energy Challenge (BEC), which is a grant program designed to solicit innovative solutions from the community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Boulder. Up to $200,000 was available this year to fund solution-oriented projects.

Program Objective:

  • Find innovative new ideas that can accelerate Boulder’s path to reaching its Climate Commitment goals of:
    • 80% reduction in community greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2050
    • 100% renewable electricity by 2030

Focus Areas:

    Deep Emissions Reduction Strategies

  • 2017 funded projects will be new ideas that address one of the Climate Commitment’s energy focus areas, including:
    • Electricity source and system change
    • Building energy use
    • Transportation
  • Ideas will also be considered that address significant existing barriers to reducing emissions outside of these focus areas.

    Community Mobilization

  • Projects designed to increase active community participation/adoption of emissions reduction/renewable energy related actions
  • Projects that create effective engagement and benefits for segments of the community frequently underrepresented in renewable energy system change or other related efforts e.g. electric vehicle adoption, energy efficiency adoption, natural gas appliance replacement etc.

Eligible Project Types:

  • Pilot Projects - A limited test or trial of a technology, strategy, application, etc. 
  • New Business Model Testing - A project that tackles barriers to wide scale adoption of solutions.
  • Efforts to Remove Key Barriers - Projects or initiatives aimed at removing key legislative, regulatory, financial or other barriers to emissions reduction.
  • New Product/Service Development - The funding of continued development of a new product or serve that has already demonstrated viability.
  • Energy Behavior Change - Community education efforts (e.g. education, products or services) aimed at significantly altering behavior that results in emissions reductions with demonstrated effectiveness.
  • Community Engagement Programs - A project that results in increased community participation in climate efforts, especially with underrepresented segments of the community.

CU Boulder Partnership for Technology Projects:

The University of Colorado-Boulder is partnering with the 2017 Boulder Energy Challenge to make university assets available for technology demonstration and pilot projects applying under the Deep Emissions Reduction Strategies grant category. This includes CU buildings, fleet and microgrid. If you are interested in a collaboration with the university for your project, please contact Jamie Harkins at [email protected] to discuss and pursue next steps. 

Eligible Applicants:

  • Eligibility open to businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions, and individuals
  • Entity does not need to be Boulder-based, but implementation must occur in Boulder
  • No cost-share requirement, but additional funding outside the BEC grant will earn points in evaluation

Grant Term and Amounts:

Maximum grant award is $100,000 and there is no pre-determined distribution of grants. Depending on the proposals received, not all of the available funding may be awarded.


2014 Boulder Energy Challenge grants were awarded to the following projects:

  • Boulder Housing Partners: Affordable Housing Energy Empowerment
  • eGo Carshare: TripSmart Pilot Project
  • Evolution7 Labs: Solar-Plus-Storage Demonstration Project
  • Lightning Hybrids: Lightning Hybrids/Via HHV
  • Snugg Home: Bundling Electric Vehicles with Solar PV and Energy Efficiency
  • Superior Ecotech: Algae Greenhouse for CO2 Capture at Upslope Brewing


Project Information and Results to Date:

Smarthome Labs:  Solar-Plus-Storage Demonstration Project

The Smarthome Labs Solar-plus-storage (S+S) Demonstration Project set out to identify, understand, and measure the benefits of adding battery storage to rooftop PV systems. The project established two residential (~4 kW) sites and one light commercial/industrial (~20 kW) site. The findings will help inform Boulder’s Energy Future about the potential for distributed solar-plus-storage for accomplishing the city’s energy goals.

The sites included advanced Transverter™ inverter/charger, solar arrays, batteries, an electric car charger and smart appliances integrated using the on-site PowerStation™ energy management gateway and application platform. 

Results : This project is complete and found that adding batteries to a rooftop solar system is both feasible and valuable and can be done with conventional off-the-shelf equipment. The main benefit is resiliency—enabling access to solar power when the grid is down. Other benefits include behind-the-meter efficiency, net-metering grid supply and support, and adaptability to new utility tariffs (e.g., demand charges, time-of-use pricing, etc.).

Adding batteries to a solar PV system is not as simple as it might first appear. It completely transforms the basic nature of solar PV in a way that differs from either a conventional grid-tied net metering system or an entirely off-grid system. The market is at a very early stage and extremely limited. S+S is feasible and workable with conventional lead acid battery technology, however improvements in cost and performance could spur the market forward dramatically. Many new and improved battery technologies appear to be in the pipeline. For example, the expanding electric vehicle (EV) market offers to create a large and continuing supply of re-cycled and repurposed batteries for homes and buildings.

A premises-based (or behind the meter) gateway platform and control system will be needed to realize the full value and functionality of S+S. Both premises and grid-interactive functions will depend on such a platform and it could open up many new opportunities for communities, for appliance manufacturers, and for builders.

Lightning Hybrids:  Lightning Hybrids/Via HHV

In this pilot project, Lightning Hybrids (LH) installed one of their innovative hydraulic hybrid systems onto a Ford E450 shuttle bus located in Boulder. The vehicle fitted with the LH system is owned and operated by Via Mobility Services (Via), a nonprofit organization committed to providing transportation services to people with limited mobility. The project brought the first hydraulic hybrid vehicle to Boulder and supported the main objectives of reducing the city’s consumption of fossil fuels, lessening the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrating to Via and the City of Boulder the significant energy and emissions benefits that LH’s hydraulic hybrid technology delivers to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Results : The LH system was in service a total of 581 days. Reliability of the system was 93 percent, well over the industry standard of 85 percent. The overall fuel economy provided by the system was seven percent and 152 gallons of fuel were saved, much lower than anticipated. After some analysis, it was determined that the savings were lower because of the amount of time paratransit buses spend idling waiting for riders. As a regenerative braking system (one that saves and uses braking energy for acceleration), the system cannot provide a fuel benefit when a vehicle is idling. Having a vehicle in a fleet, on the road  was of great value to Lightning Hybrids. Feedback from the drivers and riders was key to many upgrades and changes to the product that made it quieter and more efficient. The company added idle reduction to the benefits of the system and developed a strong driver training program and a new driver feedback module based on the lesson learned from this project.

Snugg Home: Bundling Electric Vehicles with Solar PV and Energy Efficiency

Snugg Home recently performed a study to determine the financial benefits of combining home energy efficiency retrofits (EE), solar photovoltaics (PV), and electric vehicles (EV) under a single financing mechanism. Thanks to the significant financial savings from electric cars, combining all three upgrades results in dramatically faster payback periods seldom discussed in the energy industry and a business model with potentially explosive growth. In this project, Snugg Home’s goal was to show households the 10 to 30 year cost of doing nothing compared to the 10 to 30 year costs of improvements plus the associated energy savings. By financing together, they would pay nothing more than what they were paying today.

Results : Upon completion, 115 participants engaged with the project in some way, and 14 of the households who received a full presentation have made progress of recommended measures. 35 significant improvements were made costing $464,000 (net of tax benefits) including 13 electric vehicles, 9 solar systems, and 7 major energy efficiency upgrades. Lessons learned included that timing was one of the main issues, as not many households were ready to buy a new car. Many people want to improve their homes, but don’t know where to start, and appreciated talking to an expert that looked at the whole house as a system. Managing multiple bids from several different types of contractors also took more time than expected.

Encouraged by the experience of the pilot, Snugg founders spun off a new company called Fuel Switch with a new General Contractor Revenue Model where homeowners will write a single check to Fuel Switch, all measures will be subcontracted out and Fuel Switch will manage the entire process rather than the “referral” model tried in the grant period. This will reduce friction compared to the pilot approach.

Boulder Housing Partners:  Affordable Housing Energy Empowerment Reducing electricity consumption in affordable housing units represents a challenge to both Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) and residents. Part of the challenge is associated with the invisibility of unit-level electricity demand since electricity use data is only available at the building level. This challenge makes it very difficult for BHP to identify and manage equipment problems and unusually high levels of household consumption, resulting in higher than average levels of electricity consumption and high energy costs for BHP. This pilot project addresses the challenges presented by the Boulder Housing Partners by implementing a comprehensive energy efficiency solution using a combination of energy feedback software/hardware and a resident empowerment program. The pilot provides BHP with real-time, unit-level information about electricity use, provide residents with targeted feedback about their energy consumption, and employ a variety of scientific approaches for motivating, engaging and empowering residents to take action.

Results : This project is nearing completion with the final stages of the resident empowerment program under way.  

eGo Carshare: TripSmart Pilot Project The City of Boulder has a rich transportation infrastructure, offering residents and in-commuters numerous transportation mode options. Yet, transportation accounts for 28% of Boulder’s CO2 emissions and over 35% of trips occur with single occupancy vehicles (SOV). Through eGo Carshare’s exposure to new carshare members who are often at the point of moving from a car dependent lifestyle to a car-lite lifestyle, they find that the barrier is often a lack of knowledge or experience of the individual, not a lack of infrastructure or service. This pilot project assesses the ability to impact the mode choice of residents through targeted transportation advising. eGo staff and partners have conducted free individual transportation audits in person and online, then recommended customized solutions tailored to the individual’s needs. The goal is to increase participants’ awareness of the economic and environmental cost of their SOV trips, as well as the potential pleasures of alternative modes, and then support them in exploring and recommending feasible TripSmart options. Based on the analysis of an individual’s transportation needs, recommendations may include, but are not limited to: rediscovering the often overlooked ped option, bus service to their destinations, the availability of Neighborhood EcoPasses, bike routes, bikeshare membership, carshare membership, carpool and ride matching programs, on-demand taxis, etc.

Results : This project is nearing completion. 

Boom Algae: Algae Greenhouse at Upslope Brewing for CO2 Capture

Boom Algae’s goal with this project was to convert waste CO2 from fermentation at breweries into algae-derived oils at half the cost of their competitors. Although algae-derived biofuels could solve the world’s energy crisis, algae companies struggle to meet margins due to high production costs. The project proposal was to build a 1,000 square foot algae greenhouse at their partner brewery, Upslope Brewing, at Flatirons Park in Boulder, however the project did not proceed past initial stages due to structural complications at the brewery site.



Questions about Boulder Energy Challenge? Please contact Jamie Harkins at [email protected] or (303) 441-1846.


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