Peter Wharton, YVSC Intern | August 12, 2021

My name is Peter Wharton, and I am currently an intern with Yampa Valley Sustainability Council here in Steamboat Springs this summer. As a recent graduate from the University of Colorado in Boulder, with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies, I was ecstatic to be a part of this opportunity to fine-tune my environmental knowledge and skills in my beautiful hometown. This project-based internship has me primarily focused on the Energy and Transportation sector within our local community, where I am attempting to improve involvement in energy retrofit upgrades and energy assessments. According to the EPA, the amount of snowpack measured in April has declined 20-60 percent at most monitoring sites in Colorado as the temperature has continued to rise. Being highly economically motivated by the resort aspect of our town and through the need for snow and water, this not only highlights the problem of climate change but similarly how it will eventually affect our local economy and, worse, our active lifestyles here in Routt County. Through the improvement of clean energy usage, however, we could mitigate this problem as it pertains to the community, the environment, and your energy provider. When you use less energy, it helps reduce our local demand for power, which in turn, is not only good for the environment but good for your pocket and our beautiful Ski and Bike Town USA.

The opportunity at hand

The local non-profit organization Main Street Steamboat received $1 million in COVID relief funding from the state government. This is to be used on energy efficiency upgrades as well as outdoor facade improvements of commercial businesses located within the downtown Steamboat Springs area. This grant was made available June 1st, 2021 and requires that all projects for the town are completed by the end of June 2022. The money available is on a first come first served basis and will require a competitive bidding process if the project cost is over $10,000. Eligible entities are those who are partners and involved in Mainstreet Steamboat, are located within the downtown area, and are incorporating either energy efficient or outside facade upgrades. The business owner will be required to match 20% of the individual project cost, and if the upgrade is an energy efficiency upgrade, business owners must show the proof of improvement after implementation via the before and after utility bill. For those interested, the first review of applications is August 23rd and will take place every two weeks following. For more information on the grant, you can see the full program guidelines here.

My role

My role with YVSC as an intern has been working side by side with our newly appointed Energy and Transportation Director, Paul Bony. We were tasked with increasing the knowledge and awareness of the Mainstreet Steamboat grant program and decided to do so through the creation of an educational brochure as well as in-person outreach. Over the last five weeks, I have been creating a brochure as well as working on my distribution strategy for this grant opportunity. I was fortunate enough to have completed the brochure and passed them out to roughly 18 downtown businesses. My brochure, which can be found here, contains a rough overview of the grant opportunity, where you can schedule an energy assessment, rebate opportunities, examples of common energy retrofits and their savings. Also, you can find more in-depth information on our website about the grant guidelines, the rebate opportunities in Steamboat, as well as the solar opportunities provided by Solar United Neighbors.

After the completion of both the website and the handout, I then began the distribution process. Through communicating with Lisa Popovich, Executive Director of MainStreet Steamboat, I was able to compile a list of downtown businesses that are a part of Main Street Steamboat, own their building, and are most likely to respond/implement such upgrades. We decided to start our in-person outreach here. Finally, with a little help from Paul, we were able to physically walk downtown to visit these potential participants and pass out our brochure to communicate the opportunity that is available to them this year only! I thoroughly enjoyed the “cold call” experience and believe that because we did it in-person, the commercial businesses will have a better understanding of the opportunity at hand and the program will be more successful as a result.