Report: Clean-Energy Jobs Boosting Colorado's Economy

The 250-megawatt Golden West Wind Energy Project near Calhan has added well-paying jobs to Colorado's struggling rural economy.
The 250-megawatt Golden West Wind Energy Project near Calhan has added well-paying jobs to Colorado's struggling rural economy. e2.org/Richard Wilson
The clean-energy industry now accounts for 62,000 jobs and is playing a growing role in Colorado's economy, according to a new report distributed Friday morning to state lawmakers — who are being urged to do more to help increase that total, despite signs that the Trump administration's energy policies will seek to bolster reliance on coal and other fossil fuels.

The report, released by the national business  group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2),  makes for interesting reading. Among some of the highlights:
  • Wind power now supplies 16 percent of the state's electricity.
  • Close to 400 solar firms accounted for $305 million in installations last year.
  • Solar power generation in Colorado increased tenfold between 2009 and 2014.
  • Clean energy firms remain, for the most part, mom-and-pop operations; 88 percent of them have fewer than fifty people on their payrolls.
One thing that makes the numbers sound so impressive, though, is the way the report defines "clean energy." Nearly two-thirds of those 62,000 jobs are actually in the energy-efficiency business — companies that provide building insulation, improved heating and lighting, and so on. But that doesn't detract from the way solar- and wind-related jobs (about 6,000 in each industry) have helped to diversify the state's energy portfolio and brought tax revenue to struggling rural areas.

Coal still provides more than half the electricity in the state. But Colorado has led the nation in pushing through legislation, with widespread popular support, requiring a phased-in transition from coal-fired plants to natural gas and requiring investor-owned utilities to produce 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. The E2 analysts enthuse that the state has a great base to build upon to promote more clean energy and cut carbon emissions, through tax credits, efficiency incentives and other measures.

"Now is the time to re-up the state’s renewable energy standard, strengthen efficiency incentives and accelerate the market for electric cars by increasing charging infrastructure. With a clean energy job force that’s already more than 60,000 workers strong, Colorado can expand its range of attractive, resilient employment by fully embracing its clean energy potential," the report concludes.

Here's a video released with the report, touting Lafayette's Solar Garden and the economics of renewables.

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