Opinion

Colorado Energy Plan will benefit communities, economy and environment

Author: Julie Gorte - August 16, 2018 - Updated: August 16, 2018

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Julie Gorte

Colorado’s largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, has a plan to dramatically shift the way we produce energy by increasing the amount of renewable energy produced right here in the Centennial State. Doing so would deliver substantial economic and environmental benefits to Colorado residents in the form of new jobs, increased revenue for communities, and lower utility bills for both businesses and consumers.

With a decision expected next month by the Public Utilities Commission, Colorado has an opportunity to become a national leader on clean energy and serve as a model for states across the country. In addition to the environmental benefits, clean energy is a major driver of economic growth. I am lucky to live in Colorado and work for an investment firm, Impax Asset Management, that manages approximately $15 billion in assets. We see clean energy investments as attractive in a number of ways. Clean energy enhances the reliability and resiliency of our electric grid by adding a more diverse set of resources like wind, solar and energy storage. With the prices for renewables and energy storage falling, clean energy is also good for consumers. For these reasons, we support the emphasis Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan places on developing local, renewable energy.

As a part of the plan, Xcel proposes a $2.5 billion statewide investment to procure 1,800 MW of wind and solar, the early retirement of two coal plants, and the development of 275 MW of energy storage resources. Altogether, this plan is projected to help Xcel Colorado achieve 55 percent renewable energy by 2026 and reduce greenhouse gases emissions by nearly 60 percent from 2005 levels. In doing so the plan will also help reduce air pollution and improve public health, especially in Colorado’s Front Range communities, which struggle to meet federal air quality standards.

This proposal demonstrates that investing in renewable energy makes economic and financial sense for Colorado. Overall, Xcel projects that its customers will save approximately $215 million if this plan is implemented. This savings would be thanks in part to the dramatic drop in prices for solar, wind, and energy storage — a trend that is likely to continue. In fact, the solicitation process for projects proposed in the plan attracted record-breaking low renewable energy bids — a signal to other major utilities that extensive, long-term investments in renewable energy is an effective way to keep prices low for customers. This dynamic is not exclusive to Colorado. Recent clean energy procurement plans in Nevada and Arizona further demonstrate this trend, setting new price records for renewable energy bids.

Moreover, the projects proposed in the plan will be located exclusively in-state and across eight different counties — taking advantage of the ample wind and solar resources that we have right here in Colorado. This statewide focus will boost the state’s energy independence and spur economic development throughout the state, ensuring the plan delivers value to all Coloradans. Colorado already has a robust clean energy sector, employing more than 57,000 workers in fields from energy efficiency to renewable energy and more. Xcel’s planned investments will continue to create jobs and grow this sector, ensuring that Colorado’s economy will continue to thrive as we transition to a low-carbon future.

The proposed plan will also help Colorado cities and the state achieve their ambitious climate and clean energy goals. Gov. John Hickenlooper set a goal for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector 35 percent by 2030, while cities like Pueblo and Denver recently made commitments to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The Colorado Energy Plan demonstrates a commitment by Xcel to be a part of the solution and sends a message that they are ready, willing and able to help these communities meet their goals.

A continued commitment to clean energy will create a prosperous future for all Coloradans. The proposed Colorado Energy Plan will benefit our communities, our economy and our environment. We applaud Xcel’s commitment to the state’s future and encourage the Commission to make it a reality.

Julie Gorte

Julie Gorte

Julie Gorte is senior vice president for sustainable investing, Impax Asset Management LLC and Pax World Funds, and a member of Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability.