Advancing Colorado’s Energy Future

Colorado’s RES

In 2004 Colorado’s voters adopted a renewable energy standard (RES), the first in the country enacted by popular vote.  The Colorado RES has been updated to increase renewable energy requirements since then and now (2014) requires the following:

  • 30% renewable energy by 2020 for investor owned utilities (IOUs)
  • 20% renewable energy by 2020 for rural electrics
  • 10% renewable energy by 2020 for municipal utilities

Here we present links to ideas, approaches and organizations that take on the challenge of advancing well past this sort of RES by pushing to significantly more renewable energy (RE) for electric power generation as well as advancing into efficiency, buildings and transportation.

Boulder’s Energy Future

The residents of Boulder Colorado have a strong sense of environmental responsibility and have embarked on a path to create a municipal utility.  In the project’s own words:

In November 2011, City of Boulder voters narrowly approved two measures that supported exploring the possibility of purchasing Xcel Energy’s distribution system and forming a city owned and operated electric utility. Since the election, significant staff, consultant and volunteer time has been put into this initiative. The main objective of the work has been to determine how the Boulder community could meet its climate change and emission reduction targets while giving Boulder electricity customers reliable and competitively priced energy as well as a voice in decision-making. Over the past several months, staff has started to characterize this vision, both internally and publicly, as “The Electric Utility of the Future.”

A great deal of information on their thinking is contained in  Boulder City Council Study Session on 7/23/2013.  There is also a great deal of information on the modeling performed on the Boulder City Site under “Municipalization“.

Accelerating Fort Collins’ Energy and Climate Goals

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is well known in Colorado for their innovative solutions to energy problems, whole systems thinking and proposals for aggressive progress such as their Reinventing Fire initiatives.

When RMI teamed up with the Fort Collins municipal utility, they conducted an analysis and created a report in which they describe how the city can accelerate their green house gas reduction goals, reduce building energy use by 31%, achieve a carbon neutral electricity sytem and reduce transportation energy use by 48%.

Renewables Revolution

There is a renewables revolution going on in the U.S. and Europe; and renewables create far more jobs than do fossil fuels and nuclear.  So shifting away from fossil fuels and nuclear, including banning fracking, and moving instead rapidly down the renewables path, will improve the Colorado economy and jobs.

The green economy creates three times as many jobs as the dirty and dangerous oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear economy, according to Robert Pollin, the President of Pear Energy and a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst  The solar industry alone — not including wind, geothermal heat pumps, hydro and energy efficiency– currently employs more people than the coal and natural gas industries combined, according to the National Green Energy Council

In 2013 50% of all new electrical power came from wind and solar, in Europe 68%, according to Jacobson.  In the first quarter of 2014 74% of all new electrical generation in the U.S. came from solar, according to GTM research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, and most of last quarter’s installations were residential.   Increasingly fossil fuels and nuclear cannot compete with renewables even though they receive more subsidies than do renewables.

By 2030 the U.S. can meet 80-85% of all of its energy needs with renewables, and by 2050, 100% according to Jacobson Similar findings are reported by Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute in his book Reinventing Fire .

In Colorado renewables will primarily consist of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and energy efficiency.  Geothermal consists of mainly geothermal and air to air heat pumps.  Geothermal heat pumps are frequently 450% efficient.

At the national level the Solutions Project estimates that by 2050 5.1 million 40 year construction jobs will be created, and 2.6 million 40 year operations jobs.

Once the initial capital costs of reneables have been financed, with, for example, very low interest 30 year loans, the price of the fuel will never go up – fuel from the sun, wind and geothermal are free.  Fossil fuels and nuclear energy cannot compete with free energy from the sun, wind and geothermal.

Once the massive subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industry have been redirected to renewables the renewables revolution will accelerate even faster.

Solutions Project Links

Two page summary of the Solutions Project analysis for Colorado.

Solutions Project study for California.

Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford University

 Jacobson, Boulder Talk, Feb 2014

Solutions Project, Map U.S.


Jacobson Interview, David Letterman


Jacobson Interview, Thom Hartmann


50 States Plans to Convert


Questions and Answers


Stanford researcher maps out an alternative energy future for New York


Powering the World for all Purposes With Wind, Water, and Sunlight


A Plan For a Sustainable Future Using Wind, Water, and the Sun


Jacobson Scientific Background


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