West Slope group to oversee diesel grant program

A Western Colorado organization has been selected to run a program that helps businesses reduce diesel exhaust emissions by using newer equipment.

Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) based in Carbondale will administer the Colorado Clean Diesel Program.

The program awards grants to businesses to defray the cost of upgrading or replacing diesel engines. While the effort initially focused on retrofitting school buses, the program will shift the priority to heavy equipment. That includes options ranging from simple exhaust controls and idle-reduction devices to such new technologies as zero-emissions trucking refrigeration units.

CLEER plans to publish eligibility requirements for the program this summer. Businesses will be able to apply for rebates in two cycles later in the year.

The program has an annual budget of less than $1 million, but leverages funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate the feasibility of cleaner diesel technologies, said Stefan Johnson, transportation program coordinator at CLEER.

“These grants to early adopters prime the pump of the market,” Johnson said. “They create demand by showing other businesses that these technologies work just as well or better while producing less pollution. And that encourages the manufacturers of these technologies to scale up, which lowers prices.”

Diesel engines constitute the workhorses for many industries, but their emissions rank among the largest contributors to pollution, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Diesel exhaust contains cancer-causing chemicals as well as fine particulates and other gases that affect respiratory health.

Since diesel engines can operate for 30 years or more, many still in service predate modern federal regulations, Johnson said. Replacing just one large industrial engine with a newer, cleaner-burning model can reduce emissions by as much as taking thousands of cars off the road, he said.

While CLEER works mainly to promote clean energy in Western Colorado, the organization has launched local programs that have expanded statewide. CLEER helped obtain the initial federal funding for what is now ReCharge Colorado, which promotes electric vehicle adoption. A program CLEER launched to help low-income residents in Garfield County make home energy improvements has grown into the Colorado Affordable Residential Energy Program.

For more information about the clean diesel program and CLEER, visit the website at https://cleanenergyeconomy.net.