FORE Alliance Now a Membership-Supported Organization
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 25, 2012 | 1710 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – The Focus on Resource Efficiency Alliance has become an asset in its year-and-a-half existence as a one-stop shop for information about renewable energy programs and resources for area communities. And while its state funding has run out, FORE Allianceplans to push forward with its mission.

Since its inception in 2010, FORE Alliance has increased area participation in state and federal energy programs, helped businesses get energy-related training and educated youth about the need for conservation and boosted the awareness of the burgeoning eat-local food movement.

It was all thanks to a Community Energy Coordinator Grant provided by the Governor's Energy Office.

The grant, established to create a community-based resource connecting the different energy-related businesses and organizations within the service area, as well as to guide and unify energy conservation plans and programs, and energy consumption goals, set out to create economic vitality for rural Colorado residents.

To that end, 18 regional organizations got funding, including FORE Alliance and the Telluride-based The New Community Coalition. These two organizations became partners, and, in the course of  developing their own local strategies to conserve energy and create jobs, to mutual benefit.

The nine-member FORE Alliance board includes representatives from city and county government, local utility companies and staff from surrounding towns and municipalities in Montrose and Delta counties; Abbie Brewer is its executive director.

Now, with grant funding gone, the alliance has reformulated to a membership-based structure.

"Becoming a community-based organization is our number one priority," Brewer said in a recent interview.

So far, it boasts around 15 members, among them the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the City of Montrose. Membership costs start at $35, for individuals, and go as high as $10,000 for large organizations.

With its structure evolving, FORE Alliance continues to focus on resource efficiency by functioning as a resource for commercial and public efforts encouraging conservation and training,; and by supporting local food os and recycling efforts.

FORE Alliance already has been successful in these areas over the past year and a half.

For example, state weatherization programs and rebates have been around since the 1980s, but in Montrose County, no one was taking advantage of those savings, Brewer said. With FORE Alliance's help in promoting that program, participation increased 100 percent in the past 18 months, and about 80 homes are now more energy efficient.

"The issue in these communities was that no one knew who ran the programs; no one knew who to go to. We became that streamline – they come to us and we tell them what is available," she said.

In Montrose and Delta counties, residents received a total of $853,000 in energy rebates in the past 18 months because of the collaborative efforts of the alliance with utility entities such as DMEA and San Miguel Power.

Those efforts continue with FORE's partnership with DMEA to launch the Business Energy Assessment Team program.

The BEAT program identifies energy leaks in a business's operating costs that are lowering its profit margin by providing a comprehensive energy assessment on that business at a much-reduced cost.

Supporting local foods – because that reduces travel costs, provides healthy options for residents and supports the local economy – is another priority of the FORE alliance.

Earlier this year, Brewer became the director of the Montrose Farmers Market, and in July, the market saw a 47 percent increase in sales, which Brewer believes is a result of the community's increased awareness of the importance of healthy foods, knowing where those foods come from and supporting the local economy.

FORE Alliance will continue to engage local municipalities as part of its continuing efforts.

In 2011, the city implemented energy conservation measures in 10 of its largest facilities through an Energy Performance Contract. That contract identified 26 measures that could save the city $42,000 annually, according to FORE Alliance’s grant report.

"We are still looking around to see exactly what we are wanting to do and still looking to see where we can meet a need," Brewer said. "We want to continue with workforce development, continue at the state and federal levels and continue to be that streamline for our communities."





Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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