‘The global advanced energy transition is underway, and Colorado should take pride in showing the way’

Author: Ronald E. Keys - December 27, 2017 - Updated: December 27, 2017

Ronald E. Keys

During my 40 years serving in the United States Air Force, issues around energy were always present. We needed energy to power our bases, fuel our fleets of aircraft, and we needed all of that energy to be reliable and affordable. As we rely more and more on sophisticated technology to execute our missions, that need is ever more important.

At the same time, it is no secret that demand for energy is growing around the world at an unprecedented rate. That growth is driven by rising populations and expansion of a more affluent middle class in developing areas like south Asia and Africa. This increased demand for fossil fuels is often feeding the government coffers of nations that do not share our interests, in addition to establishing new diplomatic ties and energy dependencies — often contrary to U.S. national security goals. At the same time stresses and threats to our old and outdated electric grid pose new problems here at home.

While the growth in both threats and opportunities is occurring, there is also good news.  We are finally seeing an increase in alternative energy choices that are affordable and reliable. As these advanced energy resources begin to transition away from fossil fuels, nations that lead in the pursuit, development and deployment of those resources will be global leaders. Should the United States choose to sit on the sidelines during this, it does so at the risk of losing our competitive technology leadership in world markets as well as potentially having our larger economy being impacted by crises in the global oil market.

In a new report that CNA recently published, our organization, made up of retired three- and four-star generals and admirals from the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps, identified assured, reliable and affordable energy as the lifeblood of our economy and a national security priority. Advanced energy is a part of that. It encompasses a full suite of resources including new means of power generation, distribution, storage and efficiency.  Nuclear, wind, solar, electric vehicles, biofuels and so on, are all resources that can reduce the growing dependence on fossil fuels. These advanced resources are not the fuels of tomorrow, they are the fuels of today and they are becoming competitive with traditional energy sources, helping to diversify our nation’s energy resource portfolio.

Colorado’s approach is a perfect example of the future in alternative and advanced energy sources. During my recent trip to Colorado, I learned that in just over 15 years, more than $5.4 billion in wind and solar projects have been built in eastern Colorado. The development of advanced energy power generation has also created an estimated $2.7 billion direct economic impact on Colorado’s eastern counties. Just drive through Colorado’s eastern plains and see the landscape full of windmills generating affordable, reliable electricity. These investments here in your own backyard are working to make our supply of energy resilient, but they are also serving to create jobs, expand tax bases, strengthen communities, and serve as economic drivers for rural Colorado.

The global advanced energy transition is underway, and Colorado should take pride in showing the way in practical and pragmatic adoption. Right now, the world is at an energy crossroads. Nationally, we need to make the same smart choices to ensure we do not allow our global influence and national security to be compromised.

Ronald E. Keys

Ronald E. Keys

Ronald E. Keys is a retired U.S. Air Force general and a former commander of the Air Combat Command. He chairs the Military Advisory Board of CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia.