Colorado at the forefront of renewable energy development

“For the first time in the history of our industry, we have a clear ten-year policy that allows business owners to assess where they stand and make investments accordingly”says Mike Kruger, president of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association (Cossa), a Denver-based organization that brings together companies in the solar energy sector.

“Gigawatts and gigawatts” new solar projects eligible for tax credits will, according to him, be carried out in the wake of Joe Biden’s climate plan. The association expects to see the workforce in the solar and battery industry nationwide quadruple, to about 250,000 employees today. In Colorado, the 7,000 workers in the sector should double within ten years.

Ambitious climate legislation

Since Democrats took control of both houses of the state legislature in 2018, Colorado has come up with ambitious climate legislation. The same year, the election of Democratic Governor Jared Polis, on a program to achieve 100% clean energy in the state by 2040, reinforced this momentum. In 2019, a law adopted by the legislature set a target for 2050 of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% compared to 2005 levels. The creation of a Just Transition Office, to help employees of the oil and gas sector to find new jobs, this year with a budget of 15 million dollars, has helped to rally the support of the unions.

And Colorado’s two largest electricity providers, Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., are playing along by scheduling the shutdown of their last coal-fired plants by 2030. In 2020, energy wind and solar accounted for 30% of the state’s total generation. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a think tank specializing in energy transition, Colorado is on track to meet its goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 in the electricity sector.

Laxity on mining permits

On the other hand, much remains to be done to reach the global objective of reducing emissions by 33% by 2030. Micah Parkin, director and co-founder of the environmental organization 350 Colorado, denounces the persistent laxity of the governor and the parliamentarians in granting what she calls “pollution permits”granted to the oil and gas industry, in particular for the fracking (“hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of shale gas and oil”).

Same permissiveness in the control by regulatory agencies of compliance with air quality regulations. “Over 50,000 wells are active in Colorado and if 20% of them leak, that has a huge impact”she says. “Natural gas is methane. Methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. »

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