No more “blue light specials” for global warming

Environment Colorado

Denver – Today, the Senate Local Government Committee heard expert testimony on a bill that would end the “blue light special” on global warming pollution in Colorado. House Bill 1164 “New Solar Energy Technologies” would do this by putting a price tag on carbon pollution and direct energy investments into cleaner technologies.

“The writing is on the wall—global warming pollution has a price. The investment community is already begging to look at global warming pollution as a financial risk. It’s a wise move for Colorado to follow investment leaders and consider the future cost of global warming pollution, said Johann Klaassen, Vice President at First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC. “Putting a price tag on global warming pollution is an important signal to create sound energy investments.”

In fact, more than a dozen major investment firm leaders, such as Merrill Lynch, Pax World Funds, and Calvert, are calling for national action on global warming and the need to incorporate the costs of global warming pollution. Two months ago, Bank of America announced that it would estimate the cost of carbon pollution between $20 and $40 per ton when assessing risk and underwriting financing for electricity projects. 

“Colorado should end the blue-light special for global warming pollution,” said Pam Kiely, legislative program director for Environment Colorado. “Global warming will have a high cost for our environment and our state. By putting a price tag on global warming pollution, Colorado will make sounder investments in the New Energy Economy.” 

The bill takes a two-pronged approach. First, it directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to consider the future cost of carbon pollution in deciding whether investor-owned utilities should buy energy from resources, such as coal plants, wind farms or solar power plants. Second, the bill directs the PUC to consider the environmental and economic benefits of new energy technologies such as solar power plants (also known as “concentrated solar power”), helping to level the playing field for clean energy technologies. 

Also set to testify this afternoon is Dr. Kevin Trenberth, who heads-up the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder and was a lead author on the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment. The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body which includes scientists and researchers from Colorado State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency in Boulder, and NCAR.

“The science is clear; the Earth has a fever that is going to get worse if we fail to address its causes,” said Dr. Trenberth. “According to the world’s leading scientists on global warming, the evidence is unequivocal that human activities and, in particular energy production, are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and contributor to global warming.”

As Colorado’s population and energy needs grow, Colorado will need to make important choices about how the state meets those needs. According to a recent report by the Governor’s Energy Office, Connecting Colorado’s Renewable Resources to the Markets, Colorado has the resource potential to meet energy demand with solar power plants. 

Mark Mehos is Program Manager of the Concentrating Solar Power Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and talked about the potential for utility-scale solar power plant development. 

“Colorado could meet half of our future electricity needs by using only two percent of the best solar resources in Colorado,” said Mehos. “For more than twenty years now, solar power plants in the United States have been generating clean, reliable electricity. With the ability to store power for six hours or more, solar power plants can generate electricity in the evening and at night and provide a pollution-free alternative to natural gas now and to coal in the future.”

Solar power plants are the next step in building the new energy economy. These plants will bring an economic boost to rural, southern Colorado, and in particular the San Luis Valley. Solar power plants the size of a medium coal plant could bring in between $2 and $4 billion in private investment and could create hundreds of construction jobs and over 250 permanent, high-paying jobs.