A renewable energy future is within reach
Author: Garrett Garner-Wells - August 10, 2017 - Updated: August 10, 2017
In Colorado and around the country, renewable energy is on the rise. Since 2007, our state has seen a 730% increase in wind power production and a 10,000% increase in the amount of electricity we get from the sun. At the same time, the average American uses 10 percent less energy than they did a decade ago, due in large part to improvements in energy efficiency.
Growth in these sectors is not an accident. It springs from years of forward-looking policies that have nurtured a now-flourishing clean-energy economy in our state.
A new report from Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group details state-by-state growth of key clean energy technologies and shows that Colorado ranked 6th for growth in wind energy production, 11th for solar, 13th for number of electric vehicles sold, and 15th for energy efficiency savings over the past decade. We have built a strong renewable energy foundation. It’s time to build on that foundation by transitioning Colorado to a future powered by clean, renewable energy.
A decade ago, the idea of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy might have seemed like a fantasy. But the experience of the last 10 years shows that rapid adoption and evolution of clean-energy technologies is possible.
It took 40 years, but 2016 marked the United States’ millionth solar installation. Based on the current pace of solar growth, we now expect to see a million installations every two years.
Ten years ago, wind turbines and solar panels seemed like novelties. This March, they produced 10 percent of all U.S. energy for an entire month.
As recently as 2010, high-efficiency LED light bulbs cost $40 each. Now they are cheap and accessible.
A few years ago, electric cars seemed like a far-off solution. Today they are a daily part of life for nearly 10,000 Coloradans.
As often happens with technology, increased adoption of renewable energy has been accompanied by falling costs. Since 2008, the cost of land-based wind power fell by 41 percent; distributed solar by 54 percent; utility-scale solar by 64 percent; batteries by 73 percent; and LED bulbs by an astounding 94 percent.
This trend of falling prices is expected to continue. In fact, energy experts believe that the global price of wind power will fall 24-30 percent by 2030 and 35-41 percent by 2050. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has predicted that solar may be cheaper than coal by 2025.
We are in the midst of a clean-energy revolution. Colorado can and should capitalize on its momentum.
In 2004, we became the first state in the nation to pass a renewable energy standard at the ballot box. In subsequent years, the General Assembly took action to raise clean energy standards. Today, renewables account for 19% of Colorado’s electricity generation and consumption. We are well on our way to meeting our state goal of 30% renewable energy by 2020.
A future powered by renewable energy is within our reach. If wind and solar energy continue to increase at barely half the rate they have grown in the last decade, they will provide enough power to meet all of our current electricity needs by 2035.
Furthermore, cities, states, corporations and institutions around the nation are considering commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Currently 37 cities have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, including Aspen, Boulder and Pueblo. Nearly 100 major companies have made a 100 percent renewable commitment, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO. Hawaii is committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. California and Massachusetts are currently considering legislation. And, bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress.
Our clean-energy transition is not a given, but the powerful interests standing in the way of its advancement do so in opposition to simple economics and overwhelming public opinion. According to a 2016 survey, eight in 10 Americans support expanding wind power and nine in 10 support expanding solar power. Communities around our state and elected officials at all levels should embrace this support for clean energy and chart a path toward a renewable future.
When it comes to clean energy, Coloradans know what it means to lead. I call upon elected officials around the state to continue this trend and champion policies that make Colorado a national leader in clean energy.