Without this revolution, we will destroy our climate, environment, and way of life. Through this revolution we can create 70,000 jobs, reduce electricity bills, protect our air and water, and save lives that will otherwise be lost to pollution. The moral and economic argument is as clear as can be. This inspired me to reach for our moonshot moment for energy and pledge that Colorado will be the first state to achieve 100% renewable energy. By 2040, all the power on our grid will come from renewable sources.
Coloradans have always looked to the future when it comes to energy. In 2004, Colorado voters passed the first-ever renewable energy standard enacted by ballot initiative, which required the state’s utilities to increase the amount of electricity they sourced from clean, renewable energy. Some called us dreamers. They were wrong; we were leaders. Thanks to this and other forward-looking policies, Colorado is one of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy. Colorado currently ranks 7th in the country in wind energy generation, with over $6 billion invested and tens of thousands of jobs created to date.
These policies have also created new markets for renewable energy technologies and helped to drive down their cost. Today, wind and solar are the cheapest forms of new electricity generation in Colorado, and solar is one of the fastest growing industries in the state. Overall, renewable energy currently makes up 20% of Colorado’s electricity.
But this is just the beginning of Colorado’s transition to a clean and competitive energy future. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our energy system in ways that will lower energy bills for Colorado homes and businesses, create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, improve the health of our population, and protect our natural environment for future generations of Coloradans.
100% by 2040 is an ambitious goal, and one that shows that Colorado will continue to lead the nation in building the clean energy economy of the future. Here’s how we’re going to do it:
- Invest in Energy Storage – A major scale-up in energy storage is needed to store variable renewable electricity and use it during times of lower renewable production. My plan would significantly expand energy storage at both the utility and residential scale.
- Regionalize the Grid – Grid and market integration across a wider geographic area increases access to renewable energy and reduces its variability, which will increase the amount of renewable energy on the grid. Regional markets establish simple interconnection processes, improve market liquidity, and create geographic diversity, ensuring that renewable energy sited in areas with the best resources can be delivered to population centers. As Governor, I will lead coordination among all Western Governors to advance grid integration as a priority for all Western states.
- Expand Access to Renewable Energy – All consumers, whether large companies, small business, homeowners or renters should have access to renewable energy that meets their needs. As Governor, I will champion legislation that ensures all Colorado businesses and companies have access to renewable energy. This includes utility green tariff programs, strengthening community and residential solar policies, and creating a new Green Bank to reduce financing costs for clean energy.
- Accelerate Depreciation of Fossil-Fuel Power Plants – To reach 100% renewable electricity by 2040, all fossil fuel power plants must be retired by that time. Utilities that have deployed significant amounts of capital need new tools to recover their investment and reinvest in the renewable energy technologies of the future. As Governor, I will direct the PUC to present options for accelerated depreciation of all fossil fuel power plants.
- Invest in Clean Energy Innovation and Job Training – Innovations in renewable energy technology and energy storage can help Colorado meet the 100% goal cost-effectively. My plan would invest in Colorado’s clean energy innovation ecosystem to accelerate the pace of innovation and develop the talent and technologies needed to build the renewable energy system of the future.
With this plan, we can build a 2040 electricity grid powered by 100% renewable energy. In twenty five years, our grandchildren will only ask what took us so long. Our transition to renewable energy will be characterized by a number of key elements, including:
- A major scale up in utility-scale wind and solar energy. Wind is currently the cheapest source of electricity in Colorado and solar is not far behind. Thousands of new megawatts of wind and solar capacity will be needed to meet all of Colorado’s electricity demand in 2040.
- Aggressive investment in energy storage and transmission to add much-needed flexibility to the grid during the coming decade. Gigawatts of storage will be needed to shift renewable electricity production to times when electricity demand is highest. The cost of storage is also falling dramatically; Xcel Energy’s recent solicitation showed that renewable energy combined with storage is now cheaper than running Colorado’s existing coal plants.
- Existing coal units will be retired as early as possible in our transition. Natural gas units will continue to provide back-up generation during the transition as wind and solar ramp up, but natural gas will also steadily be retired as large-scale energy storage is deployed over the next two decades. By 2040, wind, solar, hydro, and energy storage will meet 100% of our electricity needs.
- Programs and funding to retrain workers from fossil fuel industries will help them apply their skills and experience to the clean energy economy. Through my Colorado Promise program, workers will have the opportunity to get the training they need to transition to the new economy while providing valuable service to Colorado communities.
- According to studies by the National Renewable Energy Lab, based right here in Golden, all of this is eminently achievable. During the transition, we will continue to invest in innovation to drive down costs, advance technology, and accelerate the transition to clean energy while providing stable electricity rates, thousands of new jobs, and health and environmental benefits to all Coloradans.
Read the full policy paper here.