DENVER – Today, Governor Bill Ritter joined clean energy advocates to announce a new Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center report entitled “Energy for Colorado’s Economy.”
The report shows substantial increases in economic and environmental benefits if Colorado were to double its use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, to 20% by 2020.
“This report shows we can fulfill the Colorado Promise,” said Gov. Bill Ritter. “By doubling our use of renewable energy to 20 percent, Colorado’s gross domestic product will increase by $1.9 billion.”
“More clean, homegrown energy means more jobs and higher wages paid for Coloradans,” continued Ritter. “Increasing our use of renewable energy would bring over 4,000 high-paying, high-skilled jobs and over $570 million in wages paid to our state.”
The economic boon would come from increased manufacturing, installation, and operation of renewable electricity production. The report compares economic and environmental benefits of three alternative polices on electricity production, including: “business-as-usual” with fossil fuel production, Amendment 37 which set a 10% renewable energy standard, and the 20% goal currently being considered by the Colorado state legislature.
The Environment Colorado report found job creation was 4.3 times higher, wages paid was 2.2 times higher, and an increase in gross domestic product was 1.9 times higher for a 20% renewable energy standard than under Amendment 37.
“We have only just begun to tap the potential of a New Energy Economy,” said Ritter. “Continued investment in clean energy helps our state ensure economic prosperity.”
The benefits of renewable energy are not only a win for Colorado’s economy, but investing in renewable energy has major payoffs for the environment.
“Expanding our use of renewable energy is the first sensible step we can take to tackle global warming,” said Will Coyne, Program Director for Environment Colorado. “We could avoid over 41 million metric tons of global warming pollution by using more clean energy.”
The report shows that a 20% renewable energy goal would also result in significant reductions of soot, smog, and mercury pollution. Also, since wind and most solar resources use a negligible amount of water compared to fossil fuel sources, Colorado could save over 18 billion gallons of water by 2020.
“Our report shows that the benefits of a 20% renewable energy standard are even greater than we had thought for our environment and our economy,” said Coyne.
The vast majority of Colorado’s best wind and solar resources are found primarily in rural parts of the state. Increasing development of renewable resources provides the best opportunity for economic development and job creation in what are often struggling rural communities.
Lee Swenson, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, a longtime advocate of renewable energy on the federal and state level, spoke at the press conference.
“Increasing our use of wind and solar power will help continue to unlock the economic potential of rural Colorado,” said Swenson. “Colorado farmers benefit most from homegrown power and earn anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 for each windmill on their farms. Increasing the opportunities for community-based energy generation, on farms and ranches, will provide even greater economic benefits and returns to the rural economy.”
Wind farms not only provide revenues to landowners, but it also increases the local tax base creating new funding for education and local government services. The Colorado Green wind farm in Lamar raised the property tax base by $32 million in one year.
“Expanding Colorado’s renewable energy standard to 20% would mean over $400 million for the local communities,” said Swenson.
By increasing the demand for renewable energy and facilities, one of the last nearly untapped areas for economic development is manufacturing. Craig Cox, Executive Director of Interwest Energy Alliance, explained how strong renewable energy policies help build the manufacturing sector.
“A robust local renewable energy market is one of the number one things manufactures will need before deciding to setup shop,” said Cox. “By doubling Colorado’s renewable energy standard to 20% by 2020, we become a competitive state for new manufacturing facilities.”
Littleton based-Ascent Solar is currently building a manufacturing facility for its thin-film photovoltaic systems, and the Danish Vestas Wind Systems is engaged in negotiations for a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Weld County.