Clean Energy Policies Are Cutting Carbon Pollution in Colorado

Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center

Click here for a link to the full report.

Denver, CO – As temperatures warm up and the next season of wildfires draws near, Colorado is proving that we can win the fight against global warming. Clean energy policies, such as Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, are significantly cutting emissions of carbon pollution – the leading cause of global warming – according to a new report by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. The report, Moving America Forward, showed that Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard saved 3.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere in 2012. That is comparable to the annual emissions from over 750,000 cars.

“By using energy more efficiently, and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources, we are delivering a one-two punch in the fight against global warming,” said Kim Stevens, Campaign Director with Environment Colorado. “We’ve proven that we have what it takes to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. We will need firm limits on carbon pollution in order to deliver a knockout blow.”

Here in Denver, Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard of 30% by 2020 has helped area churches find the means to install solar panels on their roofs.  Churches, such as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Capitol Hill, have been able to go solar in recent years as a result of policies initiated by the renewable energy standard. 

“Having high standards set for our energy providers creates financial incentives for investors to partner with churches, install panels, and reap the financial benefits that these high standards create,” explained Reverend Larry Grimm of Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church, who has helped a number of churches in the Denver area finance and install solar panels. “Requiring energy providers to meet high percentages of renewables and offering the rebate incentives enable faith-based organizations to be better stewards of their energy use.”

Pastor Paul Carlson, a pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, added that “faith communities such as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church are helping lead the way towards clean energy in our region. Religious communities in particular have a responsibility, based on their own teachings about the care of creation, to show the feasibility of solar and other renewable power sources.  It is reasonable now for churches to move in this direction, given the third party financing that is available.”

This is just one example of the types of projects Colorado’s clean energy policies have sparked. The carbon pollution reductions of these projects are critical since scientists say extreme weather events like the flooding along the Front Range last September foreshadow what could be the new normal of weather extremes.  Coal- and gas-fired power plants are America’s largest source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Renewable electricity standards have helped Colorado develop enough renewable energy to offset as much carbon pollution as taking 429,167 cars off the road annually.
  • Energy efficiency policies have helped avoid as much carbon pollution as 212,500 cars produce in a year.
  • Limits on carbon pollution from power plants would build on Colorado’s success in using wind, solar, and energy efficiency to reduce carbon pollution.

Kim Stevens of Environment Colorado pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to move forward with limits on carbon pollution from power plants as the next step to fight global warming and shift to clean energy. Right now EPA limits arsenic, lead, soot and other pollution from power plants – but not carbon pollution. Power plants are America’s largest source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming, accounting for about 40 percent of total emissions.

“With enough willpower, Colorado can rise to any challenge. We’ve seen that climate solutions work – now it’s time for the next round,” Stevens concluded. “Senators Udall and Bennet should continue to stand up in support of the EPA’s plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants.”


Environment Colorado is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to protect our air, water and open spaces