Quantcast
Popular
A photovoltaic array at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in Montezuma County, Colorado. Dennis Schroeder / NREL

4 Ways Colorado Is Expediting Renewable Energy

By Michael Hiatt

Colorado is now the 11th U.S. state to commit to the Paris climate agreement in a repudiation of the Trump administration's decision to walk away from the deal.

The growing revolt at the state level over Trump's climate policies reflects unwillingness among policymakers to turn away from years of work transitioning to clean energy. Colorado is a case in point. Gov. John Hickenlooper's recent executive order committing Colorado to meeting or exceeding the greenhouse gas reduction targets set in Paris follows regulatory developments that will propel the state toward a new clean energy economy.


Colorado has long been a national leader in developing clean, renewable energy. In 2016, it was the seventh largest wind producing state and the eleventh largest solar producing state. More than 25 percent of the electricity generated by Colorado's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, last year came from renewable energy resources. In addition, renewables' share of the generation mix will increase to 30 percent by 2020 under the state's Renewable Energy Standard.

Currently, four recent regulatory developments are poised to accelerate Colorado's clean energy transition:

1. Wind and utility-scale solar are the cheapest resources in Colorado, today and in the future.

In May 2016, Xcel filed its long-term electric resource plan, which forecasts current and future energy prices. Xcel's plan makes it clear that both wind and utility-scale solar are currently the cheapest resources in Colorado, and Xcel anticipates it will soon purchase significant amounts of new wind and solar to take advantage of these low renewable prices. What's more, Xcel concluded that wind and utility-scale solar will likely remain the cheapest resources in the future, even as the current federal tax incentives are phased out.

Working with Vote Solar, Earthjustice intervened in the Colorado Public Utilities Commission proceeding regarding Xcel's plan to ensure it evaluated solar on a level playing field with fossil fuels. Earthjustice attorneys successfully argued the plan should incorporate the social cost of carbon when Xcel calculates the costs of burning fossil fuels.

2. Distributed solar will continue to grow in Colorado through a landmark settlement agreement.

Partnering with Vote Solar, Earthjustice helped negotiate a landmark settlement agreement that preserves net metering and ensured these distributed solar resources will continue to grow in the future. As a result of the settlement, Xcel will add an additional 225 megawatts of rooftop solar and 105 megawatts of community solar by 2019. (There are currently more than 275 megawatts of rooftop solar on Xcel's system and approximately 30 megawatts of community solar projects).

The settlement will also implement a voluntary trial program to analyze a new time-of-use (TOU) rate design. This new TOU rate should further incentivize the optimal deployment of rooftop solar, energy storage and other distributed energy resources.

3. Decoupling will provide a new policy tool to encourage the growth of rooftop solar and energy efficiency, while maximizing benefits for low-usage and low-income customers.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently approved a decoupling mechanism for Xcel, which Earthjustice worked with Vote Solar to support. Decoupling removes a utility's disincentive to promote rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and other measures that reduce electricity sales. This new decoupling mechanism should help ensure Xcel continues to support rooftop solar and energy efficiency in the future.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission also adopted Earthjustice's recommendations that benefit low-usage and low-income customers. The "Tucson Model" applies decoupling credits to low-usage rate tiers and decoupling charges to high-usage rate tiers in order to maximize benefits for low-usage and low-income customers. Colorado is the first state to implement the "Tucson Model" for decoupling.

4. Xcel begins construction on an additional 650 megawatts of clean energy.

Xcel recently began construction on the Rush Creek wind farm located on Colorado's eastern plains. Rush Creek will generate 600 megawatts of electricity when it is completed in 2018. The project will be Colorado's largest wind farm, and it will consist of 300 wind turbines that will be built in Colorado.

Xcel will soon begin construction on a 50-megawatt utility-scale solar facility as part of its new Renewable*Connect program. The Renewable*Connect program will allow Xcel customers to directly subscribe to the electricity generated from a large solar facility. This new solar program is due to the settlement agreement achieved by Earthjustice and Vote Solar.

This recent good news from Colorado indicates that clean energy will continue to grow and prosper despite the Trump administration, even in states with a substantial fossil fuel industry. Colorado shows that while there may be dark storm clouds at the federal level, the future of clean energy is clear.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

How Big Is Your Environmental Footprint?

If you want to make a positive change this Earth Day but don't know where to start, one of best things you can do is take an honest look at your environmental footprint. For instance, how much water are you wasting? How much plastic are you throwing out? How much planet-warming carbon are you producing?

Luckily, there are many online calculators that crunch through your consumption habits. While the final tally might be daunting, it's the first step in living more sustainably.

Keep reading... Show less
Shopping at farmers markets can help minimize your waste.

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Waste So Every Day Is Earth Day

Earth Day 2018 is focused on the all-important theme of reducing plastic litter and pollution. Of course, we shouldn't just reduce our plastic footprint, we should try to reduce waste in all shapes, sizes and forms. It's said that the average American generates a staggering 4 pounds of trash every day—but you don't have to be part of that statistic.

Here are six entirely manageable tips and tricks to help you cut waste.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Will Rose / Greenpeace

7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future

By Jen Fela

We're celebrating a huge moment in the global movement for a plastic-free future: More than one million people around the world have called on big corporations to do their part to end single-use plastics.

Now we're taking the next big step. We're setting an ambitious new goal: A Million Acts of Blue.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

5 Environmental Victories to Inspire You This Earth Day

Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The work to be done can seem overwhelming. A survey published this week found that only 6 percent of Americans think we will succeed in reducing global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A fin whale surfacing in Greenland. Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / CC BY 2.0

Iceland to Resume Killing Endangered Fin Whales

By Kitty Block

Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Lyft

Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive

Lyft will make all of its rides carbon neutral starting immediately by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions, the company announced Thursday.

The ridesharing service, which is part of the We Are Still coalition, provides more than 10 million rides worldwide each week. "We feel immense responsibility for the profound impact that Lyft will have on our planet," founders John Zimmer and Logan Green wrote in a Medium post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!