Colorado Governor-Elect Pushes For 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Dec 27, 2018
Originally published on February 9, 2019 12:00 pm
Copyright 2019 CPR News. To see more, visit CPR News.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the Trump administration continues to question climate science and reverse policies, many states are stepping up. Several incoming Democratic governors plan to push for cleaner energy. Grace Hood from Colorado Public Radio reports on that state's ambitious goals.

GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: Governor-elect Jared Polis campaigned for 100 percent renewable energy in the state by 2040. That was a big draw for John Noyes.

JOHN NOYES: I know he likes the environment.

HOOD: Noyes lives outside Grand Junction, Colo., where he's surrounded by public lands. As the Trump administration opens up more of it for drilling, Noyes worries about the impact.

NOYES: If you think about how inundated with the fossil fuels that we have become, we need to find something better. We need to find something more renewable.

HOOD: Just a few years ago, 100 percent renewable goals were pie in the sky. But the cost of wind and solar is plummeting. They can now compete with natural gas and coal. A few weeks ago, this economic landscape prompted utility giant Xcel Energy to pledge 100 percent carbon-free energy mid-century. Standing in front of a Denver crowd, CEO and president Ben Fowke says it'll apply to eight states, including Colorado.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN FOWKE: Let's work together, and let's make this goal an executable reality.

(APPLAUSE)

HOOD: Carbon-free doesn't necessarily mean 100 percent renewable. For Governor-elect Jared Polis, who attended the event, the distinction isn't as important as building more sources for clean energy.

JARED POLIS: You know, one of the great things about this transition is it'll create tens of thousands of good green jobs that will never be outsourced.

HOOD: Polis says he'd like to see other electricity companies use more renewables. He'll also push for larger community solar gardens. Another idea is to limit the amount of carbon companies and large polluters can put into the air. Polis will have a lot of political support for his goals. Democrats took control of the Colorado state House and Senate in the recent midterms. But Polis wants to win over Republicans.

POLIS: There's a lot of great ideas that both Republicans and Democrats have. And we want to work with people in both parties to help achieve this goal for cleaner air and to do our part on climate.

HOOD: That may not be easy. In the past, Republicans have resisted extra funding for clean energy projects. Colorado is also a big oil and gas state. The industry has a lot of influence. Still, Democratic state Senator-elect Faith Winter thinks everyone can win. She won a competitive district with a key message focused on climate change.

FAITH WINTER: I think there are solutions that help business. There's a lot of money to be made by combating climate change. And we need to tap into that energy.

HOOD: More than a decade ago, Colorado was one of the first states in the country to require that a certain amount of energy come from renewables. Winter wants it to keep pushing as those goals get more ambitious.

WINTER: And I am confident that this year, we are going to be a leader in the country on climate change issues.

TIMOTHY FOX: We are seeing this acceleration of trends in which states are looking to green up their grid.

HOOD: Timothy Fox tracks green energy policy for ClearView Energy Partners. In response to President Trump's climate rollbacks, he says a number of Democratic leaders want to boost wind and solar. But in Colorado, getting to 100 percent renewable energy may be complicated.

FOX: An election can incite ambitious ideas, but the legislative process is a little more stubborn. And there might be some softening of the targets in that process.

HOOD: Still, in Colorado and other Democratic-controlled states, Fox expects a lot more wind and solar in the years to come. For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.