The median home size in the United States is 2,434 square feet. The average residence built today in Pitkin County, Colorado, is over double that size—4,953 square feet—with 10 percent of new houses exceeding 10,000 square feet. Owners equip many of these houses with amenities that require significant energy input, causing the energy needs of such houses to soar even higher.
To conserve limited natural resources and reduce the environmental impact of recently constructed and future homes, the City of Aspen and Pitkin County collaborated with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting energy efficiency and green building. The collaboration created the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP), a framework in which homebuilders must choose to either build in accordance with energy codes or pay a tax to offset excessive energy use. Almost half of homebuilders opt to install solar hot water, solar photovoltaic, and geothermal systems. These renewable energy systems enable builders to avoid fees, fulfilling renewable energy requirements, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 50,000 tons. Builders that opt out of incorporating renewable energy systems pay a tax in proportion to the size of the building project, from $5,000 to $10,000.
Since its inception, REMP has raised approximately $6 million in energy mitigation fees. The collaboration uses the revenues to finance energy saving infrastructure projects throughout Pitkin County. REMP funds supported the installation of solar hot water systems for the City of Aspen's most recent affordable-housing project, energy efficient improvements to Aspen's ice-skating and pool facility, and a hydroelectric lighting system for a large hotel garage. The lighting system alone will eliminate five million pounds of greenhouse gases over the next 20 years. The REMP program strives to eliminate three tons of carbon from the air for every ton of carbon emitted from energy inefficient homes in the community.
As of fall of 2006, several communities in Colorado had replicated the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program: Eagle County has imposed an energy mitigation fee, and the towns of Crested Butte and Basalt have respectively opened offices for renewable energy and implemented programming modeled on REMP.