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Colorado Shoots for 30% Renewable Energy by 2020, a Stark Contrast to Its Neighbors

By Dave Levitan

Mar 9, 2010

“He has a climate advisor, he has a climate action plan, and he has called on 20 or 30 utilities around the state to submit their own climate action plan,” von Hake said. “If I had known how much he would do for renewable energy his first month in office, not to mention his first term, I would have worked a lot harder on his campaign.”

That commitment to renewable energy at the state level might be in jeopardy, though.

Ritter in January that he will not seek reelection this fall. The race for the next governor will be between the Democratic mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, and former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis; show McInnis slightly in the lead.

Hickenlooper has indicated he would continue the renewable energy trends begun by Ritter, but even McInnis, who has focused more on fossil fuel energy, wouldn’t be able to halt the state’s momentum, according to von Hake.

“I get a feeling that the renewable energy industry in Colorado is getting enough of its own legs that it won’t necessarily die if there is a Governor McInnis,” he said.

Other Governors

The influence of strong governors when it comes to clean energy and addressing climate change became clear in Utah last year, when President Obama appointed then-Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., to be ambassador to China.

, a Republican, had pushed the state toward more renewable energy and had created a panel to determine the best ways to address climate change. In contrast, Lt. Gov. Gary , who succeeded him, outwardly questions the science of climate change while acknowledging that he doesn’t understand it. Herbert faces a gubernatorial election in November.

“I think that Governor Herbert would benefit from a greater education on efficiency and renewables, and we hope to be able to do that if remains in office,” said Sarah Wright, executive director of the non-profit . She added that Herbert’s main challenger for the governor’s chair comes from Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, and that he “has a deep understanding of the benefits of efficiency and renewables to Utah.”

However, Utah is heavily conservative and Republican. Colorado’s voters, in contrast, have shifted to the middle and its legislature leans Democratic.

Elsewhere in the region, governors also seem to be playing a role in states’ progress toward renewable energy adoption. Former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano was tapped by President Obama to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, and her replacement, Republican Jan Brewer, has presided over a mixed bag of renewable energy activity. The state has adopted a , but recent attempts to include nuclear power in the standard to effectively dilute it’s power — though they appear to have — stained the state’s green reputation.

Arizona also recently diminished its status in the from “partner” to “observer,” a move Utah’s legislature is, perhaps unsurprisingly given its position on climate change, . Several states and Canadian provinces formed the Western Climate Initiative to combat climate change in the face of slow-acting federal governments.

At least Arizona is on the , though. Wyoming, which just approved a on wind power, doesn’t even have a renewable portfolio standard.

Progress around the country has differed drastically in the renewable energy realm, based on everything from demographics to legislative priorities to energy resource bases. California has led the nation for years in addressing environmental and climate concerns, and Washington state and Oregon are often at the forefront, as well.

In the Mountain West, though, where many states share characteristics that might align their energy policies, clearly a number of factors can change outcomes. Wright, of Utah Clean Energy, thinks that with better education of policymakers, some of the wrongs can be righted.

“I think why we are not moving rapidly in this state has to do with the fact that many policy makers are afraid that change will hurt us negatively,” she said. “They don’t really realize the economic development benefits of renewable energy, energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.”


See also:

In Utah, Wind Farms Would Equal Millions for Schools

Are States Shifting Away from Regional Cap-and-Trade Policies?

At what cost?

What will be economic cost to the consumers and businesses in Colorado?

I strongly agree we need to continue to reduce pollution. I also agree we need to look for more renewable energy sources. Especially for imported oil. Though we have LOTS of COAL and natural gas in the US. We're the Saudi Arabia of coal. We should be looking for ways to consume MORE coal with LESS pollution.

The cost of more wind, solar and retrofitting coal fired plants to natural gas WILL be passed on to the electrical users. Just as the two tier summer rating system will cost consumers more. Tax Man Ritter signed the two tiered system into law last year. This system is a punitive system rather than rewarding conversation. Currently there is not a capacity shortage in Colorado. It will just mean MORE profit for Xcel.

OH! Don't forget that the majority Coloradoans use natural gas to heat their homes and produce hot water. Natural gas is a commidity. When Xcel starts using MORE of it, the cost for natural gas WILL go up.

Be prepared for your energy bills to DOUBLE or MORE in the next 10 years!!!

Good riddance to Tax Man Ritter!!

Renewable Potential

"Utah has at least as good solar resources as we do, I just haven’t heard much in the form of aggressive policy coming out of there."

Indeed, Utah does. According to state by state estimates for solar thermal potential, Colorado has 38 GW and Utah 74 GW potential.

Arizona, where the conservative legislature is eager to build nuclear plants, there is 285 GW of solar resources, about equivalent to roughly 150 nuclear power plants, adjusting for capacity factors and all.

And Wyoming has very large wind potential.


March 5th was a big day for clean energy in Colorado: HB1001 passed out of the Colorado State Senate taking the RPS to 30% by 2020 and Governor Ritter announced a plan to retire or retrofit older coal plants in the metro area that will take 900MWs of coal off line, which will be replaced with natural gas and other low emission sources. The policies that Governor Ritter has implemented have benefited both the natural and the economic environment. Literally tens of thousands of green jobs have been created since his election. Perhaps even more telling, Colorado was third in the nation in 2008 for venture capital investments in green tech companies (not far behind two much larger states—CA & TX). When private investors our flocking to our state, we know our "New Energy Economy" is the real deal.

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