Opinion

Kudos to Cory Gardner for defending rural Colorado’s renewable-energy economy

Author: Byron Pelton - July 5, 2018 - Updated: July 5, 2018

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Byron Pelton

As a county commissioner, it is my duty to protect jobs and investments that drive our local economy. I am glad to see that this is also a priority for Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Gardner, along with six Republican colleagues, recently submitted a letter to President Trump requesting a narrow tariff exclusion for utility-scale solar. As the letter explains, this exemption would preserve tens of thousands of existing jobs, promote market expansion, and will allow the United States to “fairly compete in the global marketplace for energy production technologies.” So, why is this important for eastern Colorado? Because the affected jobs and economic expansion are based right here in eastern Colorado.

According to a recent economic impact study published by the eastern Colorado business chamber Progressive 15, Colorado’s eastern plains communities are benefiting from utility-scale renewables in terms of employment, construction, business activity, property tax revenue, and overall investments. And these are no longer small numbers in eastern Colorado. The Progressive 15 report found that the wind and solar industry has contributed more than $7.2 million in property taxes, and eastern Colorado landowners are receiving over $7.5 million annually in renewable-energy lease payments.

This direct investment into eastern Colorado is not one-time money tied to construction. Instead, it is a long-term investment in our rural economy that directly supports local governments, schools, and fire districts.

And this is just the beginning. Colorado’s eastern plains have extraordinary economic development potential tied to a sharp rise in renewable energy production. For eastern Colorado, utility solar is a key component to job growth and economic development in our local communities. As one example, the Public Utilities Commission is right now considering the Colorado Energy Plan which would increase utility-scale investment across eastern Colorado. Xcel Energy’s proposal calls for up to 700MW of solar — up 103% from current levels — and utility-scale solar growth would almost certainly be produced in eastern Colorado.

For eastern Colorado, renewable energy production has meant more jobs in our local communities, direct investments in our local economies, and more tax dollars to fund our schools and repair our roads. Tariffs are taxes ultimately paid by us. They hurt our economy. It would be a shame if this economic driver was slowed down by an overly broad policy drawn up in Washington D.C. Sen. Gardner deserves credit for understanding how important this policy is to our rural Colorado communities and calling on the administration to adopt this narrow exemption. I applaud Sen. Gardner for keeping rural Colorado economies his priority.

Byron Pelton

Byron Pelton

Byron Pelton, a Republican from Logan County, is a member of the Logan County Board of Commissioners.