Champions of Colorado’s renewable energy programs have a lot to be proud of. Aspen became the third US city to reach 100% renewable energy in September. Denver is the fifth-greenest city in the country and first in energy and environmental governance. Colorado was the first in the nation to pass a voter-led Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in 2004, and has increased the minimum requirements three times since then. This has led to a huge boom in renewable energy, which continues today.
Colorado is expected to add 1,738 megawatts of solar capacity from 2016 to 2021, which could power roughly 469,260 homes (one of those could be yours!). This increase would be four times the amount of solar installed from 2011 to 2016. This goal is important to keep on track as we work toward more renewable energy. Incentives and tax credits are a key piece of the puzzle to help Colorado meet and go beyond its RES goals.
While solar is doing well, wind is Colorado’s fastest-growing energy resource. Energy giants like Xcel are taking notice and investing in our most cost-effective energy source — traditional or renewable. Better weather forecasting also helps companies predict when they should adjust the grid to draw more from wind, increasing wind’s perks. Computer forecasting already saved Xcel customers $40 million from 2010-2014.
Colorado led the nation for wind energy manufacturing jobs in 2014, largely due to growth at Vestas. The wind turbine company has facilities in Pueblo and Brighton and aims to produce taller turbines with longer blades. Vestas will also provide the turbines Xcel’s proposed 90,000 acre Rush Creek Wind Project. This project would add enough power for 180,000 homes and would significantly augment Xcel’s wind capacity (which provided 67% of Xcel’s power for a 24-hour period last November). That feat is unmatched nationwide.
Coloradans have the right to be proud of the gains our state has made in renewable energy. Colorado has an admirable energy policy and has made huge progress over the years. A “second wind” in growth may also come as renewable energy gets cheaper and more competitive. But we can’t celebrate a job well done yet.
The state of Colorado does not currently offer solar tax credits, but does offer other incentives. The wind-production tax credit will expire in December. As incentives expire, we need new ways to keep up the momentum on renewables.
Threats to solar energy rates, like those proposed by the Intermountain Rural Energy Association, loom. This group, which corresponded with Koch Industries about climate denial, faced vehement protests in 2015 for proposed changes to solar energy rates. Although those particular proposals were shelved indefinitely, energy companies are not 100% on board with Colorado’s renewable future.
The good news? These energy companies respond to what their customers want. Coloradans need to speak out fast and loud to ensure our renewable energy market finds its “second wind” in the face of these looming threats. It is our responsibility to hold companies and legislators accountable to what the people of Colorado want and continue creating a nation-wide legacy in renewable energy.