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Colorado mayors sign letter touting benefits of solar energy

Author: Joey Bunch - March 22, 2018 - Updated: April 6, 2018

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Jon Vanderwall with RBI Solar works to install one of 2,500 solar panels at SunShare’s new community solar garden under construction on property owned by Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs in 2012. (The Gazette file photo)

DENVER — Eight current or former mayors from Colorado signed a letter in support of more solar energy that was endorsed by a bipartisan group of 180 mayors from across the country.

“Cities across Colorado should take steps to switch to solar energy,” said Garret Garner-Wells with Environment Colorado, which released the letter Wednesday. “By tapping into the power of the sun, cities can benefit from cleaner air and improved public health, while simultaneously tackling climate change.”

Environment Colorado said it’s unlikely that the federal government with its current leadership is going to promote renewable energy, which makes local efforts even more important.

Colorado signers were mayors Eric Mamula of Breckenridge, Marjorie Sloan of Golden, Christine Berg of Lafayette, Bob Muckle of Louisville, Nicole Nicoletta of Manitou Springs, Kristopher Larsen of Nederland, and Sean Murphy of Telluride, as well as former Edgewater mayor Kris Teegardin.

The letter says, in part:

Accelerating the growth of solar will reduce pollution while revitalizing our communities by creating jobs and keeping energy dollars in our local economies. Expanding solar power helps residents and businesses benefit from lower energy costs while providing more local control of energy and improving our communities’ resilience.

Therefore, solar energy can and should be a much larger part of our energy mix than it is today. The U.S. has the potential to produce 100 times more solar power than the total amount of energy we consume each year. We must continue to harness this vast source of clean energy for the benefit of all of our citizens.

As local leaders, we know that our communities are particularly well-suited to adopt solar power. Cities and towns are natural centers of electricity demand, have the rooftops and infrastructure needed for installing solar panels, and can craft policies to help residents and utilities make the switch to solar power. With a concerted effort underway on the state and federal levels to limit the growth of solar by fossil fuel special interests, communities like ours across the country need to act quickly to continue our progress toward renewable energy

This month, Environment Colorado released a guide called “Ten Ways Your City Can Go Solar” to help local officials.

Advocates for traditional fuel sources said the push for wind and solar is shortsighted.

“There’s a fine line between a community championing fuel diversity and pigeonholing themselves into a single resource,” Dan Haley, the president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, tells Colorado Politics. “If you want clean and affordable power, Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry has made significant strides in recent years, including a 50-percent drop in emissions, while production has quadrupled.

“Our members have implemented many new environmental safeguards, as well as countless technology improvements that have dramatically increased production efficiency. We are doing it better, cleaner, and safer than anywhere. Colorado is blessed to have a number of locally produced options, and we must keep price in mind when making those investments, because in no way should communities push policies that raise utility rates unnecessarily, and force low-income families into choosing between buying groceries, paying for perceptions, or paying their utility bills. Like the old saying goes, ‘look before you leap.’”

Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Vital for Colorado, a business coalition that supports the oil and gas energy, said it supports solar, too, but not at the expense of other forms of energy.

“Vital for Colorado is supportive of continued growth in solar as part of an all-of-the-above approach to energy, which is why we opposed the Trump administration’s damaging trade barriers on solar products,” he said.

“It’s also important to remember that natural gas-fired power plants are helping solar and other renewables grow in Colorado by providing essential backup power when weather conditions change. In a growing economy, we need all energy sources working together and playing their respective roles.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.