Foote: Colorado’s renewable energy sector is powerful and won’t be stopped
Author: Jared Wright - December 20, 2016 - Updated: December 16, 2016
Coloradans love clean energy. Seventy-six percent of Colorado voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who promotes wind and solar energy. Certainly many of them helped expand our pro-conservation majority in the Statehouse during the last election.
Renewable energy embodies many of the values that Coloradans voted for on Election Day, including self-reliance, the right to choose, concern for natural resources and the knowledge that a healthy environment goes hand-in-hand with a strong economy.
The results of this election — particularly the presidential election — have raised the question of how we can keep making progress at the state level on renewable energy even in the face of likely intransigence from Washington, D.C.
For more than a decade, Colorado has shown tremendous leadership in this area, from voters passing a renewable energy standard all the way back in 2004, to the Legislature designing the “Clean Air Clean Jobs” bill that cleaned up our air, to the defeat of countless attacks on our progress. Since I’ve served as a state representative, I’m proud to have sponsored several clean energy bills and plan on doing more of the same during my next term.
As our population continues to grow, we must ask ourselves, how will we power our state, provide energy for all Coloradans and ensure that our quality of life is maintained? Businesses, utility providers and ratepayers are increasingly choosing clean renewable energy over fossil fuels, realizing its true potential for growth and the numerous benefits it provides.
There are several reasons why we must keep promoting renewable energy at the state and local levels.
First, the cost of renewable energy is plummeting. The Department of Energy found that the cost of wind energy has fallen by 41 percent since 2008, while the cost of solar has fallen even more. Leaving aside the environmental impacts, renewable energy is cost-competitive with and often cheaper than fossil fuels, causing a steady and purely market-driven decline in the relative demand for fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Second, it creates jobs. Major utility companies, like Xcel Energy for example, have continued to demonstrate the ability to implement common-sense strategies to increase their use of renewables. By taking advantage of federal renewable energy tax credits, Xcel was recently able to launch Colorado’s largest-ever wind farm, the 600-megawatt Rush Creek Wind Project. Xcel estimates that the project will add 350 jobs in Colorado, another testament to the great benefits that a clean energy economy brings.
Third, renewables help us achieve energy independence. They are the only energy source that can ensure we never have a scarcity of energy. Coal is becoming more expensive to mine and depleting our oil reserves, posing a national security threat. Renewables are the American way to provide for ourselves and to be energy independent. The wind will never stop blowing and the sun will never stop shining, and Colorado has an abundance of both that can and will provide a reliable, resilient energy supply.
Finally, and most importantly, we must protect our communities by fighting the impacts of dirty energy. Low-income communities and communities of color are often situated closest to our most polluted areas, including power plants and refineries. This dramatically impacts their health, increases their risks for asthma and other respiratory infections and impedes their ability to achieve their greatest potential. It’s unacceptable to use energy sources that have such dire impacts when cleaner options are available.
It’s evident that renewables aren’t going anywhere, but rather will only become more of a powerhouse in the coming months and years. I’m proud to stand with Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has committed to Colorado having the “cleanest air in the nation,” to cut carbon and expand renewables statewide. Our state must continue to lead the nation in the clean energy revolution.