Colorado Report Shines spotlight on Economic, Environmental Benefits of Solar

Environment Colorado

Denver, Colo. Today advocates at Vote Solar and Environment Colorado jointly released a new report, “Investing in the Sun,” that models the economic and environmental benefits of developing solar electricity on homes and businesses across Colorado.  The analysis is released as the Colorado Senate is poised to consider HB10-1001, the centerpiece of this year’s New Energy Economy agenda.  Sponsored by Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) and Bruce Whitehead (D, Hesperus) in the Senate and Rep. Max Tyler (D-Golden) in the House, HB10-1001 requires investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to dramatically increase their percentage of electricity sales coming from local, distributed renewable energy projects, including solar.

The report analyzed the benefits of building 1,000 megawatts (MW) of smaller, distributed solar energy systems in Colorado. In addition to other distributed generation resources such as small-scale wind, HB 10-1001 is expected to deploy 700 MW of solar generation by 2020, which could result in the creation of 23,450 jobs over the next 10 years .  Extending the same requirement statewide, Colorado could expect to see 1000 MW of new solar power, and the full benefits quantified in “Investing in the Sun.”  

“Solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy resource. This study was intended to shine a spotlight on the real and immediate economic development opportunity Colorado could realize if a stronger statewide solar requirement were enacted,” said Annie Carmichael, Vote Solar’s policy lead for Colorado. 

“Investing in the Sun” indicates that 1,000 megawatts of distributed solar energy would deliver the following benefits over the lifetime of the systems:
•    Generate enough reliable, homegrown electricity to power 146,000 Colorado homes
•    Create more than 33,500 jobs in Colorado’s New Energy Economy
•    Produce $4.3 billion in total economic output (direct, indirect and induced economic activity generated through the construction and maintenance of the solar projects)
•    Save 6.8 billion gallons of water, a limited resource in Colorado
•    Avoid emitting 30 million tons of  the global warming pollutant carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking nearly 670,000 cars off the road

HB 10-1001 puts the state firmly on the path to achieving these benefits, and is the next bold step in building Colorado’s New Energy Economy.

“We can be the best in the West by rolling up our sleeves and putting Coloradans to work building tens of thousands of solar rooftops on homes, stores, and office buildings across the state,” said Pam Kiely, program director at Environment Colorado. “Going solar is smart economic strategy, and a critical environmental solution– and HB 1001 puts us squarely on track to get there.”

While the solar industry has taken off in Colorado since Amendment 37 passed in 2004, blossoming to over 200 individual companies, Colorado still has a relatively small market compared to many competitor states. 

”Coloradans spoke loudly in support of solar on the ballot in 2004, and since then we’ve worked hard to grow markets in Colorado through smart public policy,” said Rick Gilliam, Vice President of Government Affairs for SunEdison which opened up a new regional operations center in Westminster last year. “The stronger the commitment that the state can make today to developing our solar potential, the more attractive it will be for businesses like ours and the larger the investment we will be able to make in cities and towns across Colorado.” 

HB 1001 also increases the overall Renewable Energy Standard to 30 percent by 2020, in addition to setting the requirement that 3 percent of total electricity sales come from “distributed generation” (DG) systems such as solar.  

“This report proves what we already know: the New Energy Economy is creating jobs in Colorado for Coloradans,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.  “By raising our Renewable Energy Standard, we will see thousands of new jobs and prove that Colorado is leading the nation when it comes to innovation.” 

The DG systems resulting from HB 1001 will help drive local market activity, allow energy consumers to lower their electricity bills by going solar, and enable utilities to avoid costly investment in new transmission systems– not to mention the clean air and water benefits. 

“HB 1001 is our boldest step yet in moving Colorado towards renewable energy,” added Sen. Whitehead. “And this report highlights that we will truly bring a healthier economy and a healthier environment to the state.”

Vote Solar and Environment Colorado used the Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as well as inputs and assumptions drawn from real-world experience of local Colorado solar energy system installers to develop the full report. A strong distributed solar energy market would likely also support a new in-state manufacturing base and associated economic benefits, although such manufacturing development was not included in this analysis.

Full text of the study can be found at:

About the Vote Solar Initiative: Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream. Since 2002 Vote Solar has engaged in state, local and federal advocacy campaigns to remove regulatory barriers and implement the key policies needed to bring solar to scale.