We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Energy Warrior Awards. CORE established the annual awards last year during the organization’s 25th anniversary. The Energy Warrior Awards honor Roaring Fork Valley champions of clean energy and climate restoration in six categories. The 2020 award recipients are: Joani Matranga (Lifetime Achievement), Ben Koons (Homeowner), Beatriz Soto (Professional – Community), Chris Bilby (Professional – Innovation), Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (Business), and Bruce Matherly (People’s Choice)
“CORE was founded by many people who believed then — and still do — that it will take many levers to reverse the motions that are changing our climate and achieve our vision that our valley can be close to carbon neutral by 2050,” said CORE executive director Mona Newton. “These awards give CORE a chance to annually acknowledge and thank energy warriors in our community who have helped it become a reality.”
Joani Matranga – Lifetime Achievement Award
Upon arriving in the Roaring Fork Valley more than 30 years ago, this Energy Warrior threw her energy and attention into her first love — alpine skiing — spending days shredding deep powder with ski patrollers and others, learning the mountain slopes. Within a few years, her primary focus turned to the biggest challenge of our lifetime: climate change.
She was one of CORE’s first employees, working side by side with Randy Udall ideating programs like the wind power, solar power pioneers, and the most iconic: the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP) to push our valley in a direction that would create jobs in clean energy and cut carbon.
With her roots deep in Carbondale, she helped realize the opportunity for solar on the brand new recreation center and, with others in the community, collaborated to breathe new life into the old elementary school, now known as the Third Street Center. Instead of being abandoned, the former school now courses with new life, housing artists, nonprofits and a coffee shop. Looking for a creative solution in every realm, she’s helped the Marble Distillery become one of the distilleries with the most sustainable practices in the country. Her approach to innovation and problem solving has helped put Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley on the map of communities seeking sustainability.
Her drive and passion for communities and clean energy expanded while working at the Colorado Energy Office, helping Western Slope Communities participate in the New Energy Economy. When met with reluctance or skepticism, her motto was always, “Just take a step.”
We are honoring Joani Matranga for possessing such drive and passion to make a positive difference for our communities and the planet, and we know she still has more to offer.
Bruce Matherly – People’s Choice Award
Bruce was nominated for this honor by two different people, Jeffrey Woodruff and Natacha Kiler (who submitted this tribute), and received the top votes from our community.
“Bruce Matherly is an Energy Warrior who walks the walk and supports clean energy and the environment in his personal and professional life. It is not his job and it brings him no glory. His background as a biologist makes him realize that somebody has to do something, and supporting clean energy is the right thing to do for his community and for the world. For four long years, Bruce has been helping facilitate a five-megawatt solar project (18,300 solar panels) in Pitkin County, navigating government bureaucracy and NIMBYism, rallying his board, and jumping through hoops. In his personal life, he has put solar panels on two separate homes. He drives an electric car. And beyond all that, he is a kind and wonderful person. He doesn’t want or need this recognition, but he sure deserves it!”
ACES – Business of the Year
For forward-thinking energy systems + low-carbon facilities that are part of their strategic planning, we’re honored to present this nonprofit with the 2020 Energy Warrior Award in the Business category. This is a modern Energy Warrior with a 50-year history, going back to the organization’s early executive directors who strove for net zero energy before it was even a thing. In their wish to eliminate the carbon footprint of all facilities, Tom and Jody Cardamone began a trajectory that continues today under the direction of Chris Lane. Together with their staff, they have explored new ways to harness energy at their learning centers and employee housing, including geo-exchange at Hallam Lake, micro-hydro at the Catto Center at Toklat, solar at Rock Bottom Ranch, and passive-solar design at the RBR seed house. The organization recently constructed a farmhouse-style employee housing project in Carbondale that incorporates several climate-action methodologies: an in-fill location near public transportation; a modular design that can flex for varying numbers of residents; a ground source heat pump; and solar panels. To widen the impact of this project, they collaborated on free job-site workshops to demonstrate green-building principles, making their near-net-zero project truly replicable. As a matter of course, they publicly report their carbon footprint and take steps to encourage others to do the same. This organization is a lodestar in the Roaring Fork Valley that has been educating future environmentalists for more than half a century and, most importantly, leading by example.
Chris Bilby – Professional of the Year: Innovation
For his leadership in innovation, we’re honored to present this utility professional with a 2020 Energy Warrior Award in the Professional category. As the Research and Program Engineer at Holy Cross Energy (HCE), this Energy Warrior occupies a unique position at the nonprofit electric co-op and in the valley; he bridges the worlds between operation of HCE’s power grid and the way its 55,000+ members interact with it. The Basalt Vista project, the first net-zero affordable neighborhood in rural Colorado (a partnership led by Habitat for Humanity), is one example of how he is driving change. His holistic vision ensured that this residential project offered leading edge technologies to homeowners — features like all-electric heating, solar PV, electric vehicle charging and battery storage — that transformed residences into individual power plants of their own that could feed back into the HCE grid. This triple win (affordable, carbon-free and flexible to clean energy’s variability) are indicative of his approach on HCE’s Power Supply Team, a benefit to the entire valley. These include: authoring the utility’s vehicle electrification plan and Peak Time Payback program; collaborating with RFTA on electrifying transit buses; and growing the Level 2 and Level 3 EV charging network in the Valley. As CORE’s Program Director Marty Treadway says of the winner, “He is personally more passionate about energy and carbon than anyone I’ve ever met, and he works at a utility, where they’re doing the work: providing us power.”
Beatriz Soto – Professional of the Year: Community
For her work in community building, we’re honored to present this leader with a 2020 Energy Warrior Award in the professional category. She is an arquitecta, advocate, ambassador, and, above all, a uniter. This Energy Warrior uses her voice to help empower people and bring communities together, most often around a shared passion for the outdoors. In her work on a variety of energy projects — from net-zero affordable housing, to bilingual workforce trainings in energy efficiency, to land conservation — one thread is a constant: bring people together around the environment, public lands and social justice. Having grown up in a bicultural setting between Mexico and the US, she is dedicated to civic engagement and creating opportunities for all community members — Latinos and Anglos alike — to participate. She does this through the lens of the environment: championing climate change in her role as a co-founder of Voces Unidas, lobbying elected officials in Washington DC as a Green Latina, leading public land hikes for the Defiende Nuestra Tierra program, and volunteering in the schools to encourage young Latinos to see themselves as STEM leaders. Recently she became a naturalized US citizen. Her first act was to vote in the primary; her second was to run for elected office on — what else? — a green platform.
Ben Koons – Homeowner of the Year
For his work to design, build and share the gospel of net zero, we’re honored to present this community leader with a 2020 Energy Warrior Award in the Homeowner category. He is an architect who, with sweat equity and friend labor, recently completed a DIY build of his own net-zero home in Old Snowmass. Notably, he is not a contractor. When his desire to own a sustainable home in the Roaring Fork Valley butted up against the budget realities of making it happen, he found a way to do it himself, something he called a “massive learning experience.” He educated himself about the mechanical systems and building processes, synthesized that with his design background, and put it all into play. The result is an elegant residence on a “funky” property, with southern exposure, a tight build, and all-electric mechanicals powered by 10 kilowatts of solar. Through it, this Energy Warrior demonstrates that even on a budget, you can do right by the site and the environment. In addition to having an engineer-meets-artist attitude (his double major at Dartmouth), he is also a generous adventurer, game to share his knowledge. He has opened his home to CORE again and again, allowing in photographers and videographers to document his process, so that we could showcase his home as an inspiration and model for others in the valley. (See the project in action here and here.)