Clean Power Plan grows Colo.’s economy

Published July 31, 2015

An aerial view of technicians working on wind turbines at NREL's National Wind Technology Center in Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

An aerial view of technicians working on wind turbines at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center in Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

By Susan Nedell

A commonsense federal energy policy called the Clean Power Plan is about to be unveiled in Colorado and across the nation.

The Clean Power Plan will set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from our nation’s power plants. In Colorado, these new standards will help reduce Colorado’s 2012 carbon emissions 35 percent by 2030.

Because we’ve demonstrated real national leadership in reducing carbon emissions by enacting the first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in the nation in 2004, Colorado is in an excellent position to meet the carbon standards. In fact, we’re already three-quarters of the way there, and Gov. Hickenlooper has demonstrated support for developing a strong plan that works for Colorado.

To make sure we meet the carbon standards while growing our economy, we need to plan for a new RPS ahead of its scheduled 2020 expiration and increase our energy efficiency.

This would give businesses in high-growth sectors like solar, wind, and energy efficiency the market certainty they need to continue to invest in the state. This will do more than help lower carbon emissions – it will also create jobs, help develop new projects and stimulate technological innovation.

That’s certainly the message I heard from business leaders, elected officials and others who gathered last month at an event in Denver hosted by Environmental Entrepreneur’s (E2’s) Rocky Mountains chapter.

“Colorado has been a clean energy leader for decades,” State Rep. Jeni James Arndt of Fort Collins said at the recent E2 event. “But with our nation’s energy landscape shifting rapidly, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“Our legislature has an opportunity – and an obligation – to craft cutting-edge energy policy. If we create a business-friendly climate that helps increase the amount of energy we generate from clean, renewable resources like the wind and sun, we expand Colorado’s economy, create jobs, and reduce harmful carbon emissions.”

The state can meet the Clean Power Plan standards by designing an implementation plan that includes modest increases in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Already, Colorado has more than 2,300 megawatts of renewable energy on line, with another 800 megawatts under construction and 1,700 additional megawatts planned through 2020.  

Plus, current utility energy efficiency programs are set to save more than 3.6 million MWh over the next five years. More robust energy efficiency programs ensure our homes, schools, businesses, and government buildings use energy smarter. And they benefit consumers by lowering electricity bills over the long term – meaning that we have more money to reinvest back into Colorado’s economy.

Wind energy alone has delivered plenty of economic benefits to our state. For example, E2’s recently published “Winds of Change” report found that wind power supports up to 7,000 well-paying jobs, including manufacturing jobs at 22 Colorado facilities; has drawn $4.8 billion in capital investment to the state’s economy; and earns Colorado landowners $7.8 million annually in lease payments.

Since widespread solar development began in Colorado about five years ago, the industry has contributed more than $1.4 billion to our economy. The industry has created almost 11,000 full-time Colorado jobs, with annual employee earnings of more than $534 million.

“The Clean Power Plan is a huge opportunity for Colorado’s economy,” said Michael Rucker, president of Boulder-based Harvest Energy Services and a director of E2’s Rocky Mountains Chapter. “By tackling the rising economic costs of climate change, we can modernize our energy infrastructure, stimulate innovation and help create thousands of good, new Colorado jobs in high-growth sectors like wind and solar.

“As someone who has worked in Colorado’s clean energy industry for more than two decades, I have a tremendous amount of faith in the private sector’s ability to respond to the Clean Power Plan and an expanded RPS, in a manner which grows our state’s economy.”

We Coloradans have learned first-hand that commonsense energy policies like the federal Clean Power Plan and our state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard deliver the many economic benefits that comes with more clean, renewable energy.

Susan Nedell is E2’s Rocky Mountains advocate. She lives in Louisville, CO.

For a video of Colorado business leaders explaining why the Clean Power Plan grows the state’s economy, see here: