By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
Fort Collins, CO - At the recent 21st Century Energy Transitions Symposium, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter asked the governors of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming: How do you ensure that the residents of your state aren’t left out of the energy transition underway that Amory Lovins presented in his keynote remarks?
It was the final question that Ritter asked during the Governors’ Panel, and the only one he posed to all three members of the panel: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. Amory Lovins, chief scientist and co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, had earlier delivered the Symposium’s keynote address, showing that rapidly changing technologies, business models, and price trends are driving the energy transition from “the obsolete age of carbon” to “the modern age of silicon.”
It’s worth watching Amory Lovins' full presentation
How are governors ensuring that their states aren't left behind in the energy transition? I thought it was an important question, especially because Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming are all coal producing states, so each Governor must contend with what the shift away from coal means for communities that have historically depended on coal mining for jobs and tax revenue. At the same time, each state includes vast regions with some of the best renewable energy resources in the nation. So decisions made by each of the Governors, along with other policymakers in the region, will go a long way in determining how communities in their states might benefit - or be left behind - in the growth of the clean technology sector.
Governor Bullock highlighted the recent growth of solar energy in Montana, noting that, “I had said last year when I put together this energy blueprint, I want to double my solar production by 2025. We’ve now just doubled it already.” Bullock also said that in Montana’s two year colleges, “there are more and more programs that are focused on wind technicians and solar installation.” Solar installers and wind technicians are the two fastest growing occupations in the United States and are projected to grow more than twice as fast as any other occupation, according to last month’s figures from the US Labor Department.
Governor Mead discussed science and research investments at the University of Wyoming, and joked about competing with Montana for wind projects, saying “Governor Bullock, we do have the best wind.”
Governor Hickenlooper emphasized the opportunities to produce clean energy at “the same or less expensive” prices, and discussed how there are now 65,000 wind, solar, and other clean tech jobs in Colorado, “roughly the same number we have as within the carbon extraction industries.” Hickenlooper also emphasized that “high speed broadband should be universal” in every rural town, including for training programs in communities when “all of the sudden people aren’t hiring or needing coal miners.”
Here’s Governor Hickenlooper’s full response, and I’ve also transcribed each Governor’s full remarks.
We should ask these questions of our electric cooperatives as well. Like the Governors, electric cooperative board members are democratically elected, so that co-op directors are accountable to their members - each electricity consumer in their service territory. And just as energy producing states will be most impacted by the energy transition now underway, there’s a lot at stake for electric cooperatives and the communities they serve. Electric cooperatives are often very reliant on coal, but also well positioned to benefit from excellent renewable energy resources in their vast, largely rural service territories.
Like the Governors, electric cooperative members, board directors, and staff should be looking at the renewable energy resources that are available in their regions, along with falling prices and advancements in energy storage, demand response programs, and other opportunities. For some in the electric cooperative industry, this is a new conversation. Other electric cooperatives are already saving money by investing in wind, solar, hydro, efficiency, and energy storage projects.
But whatever their levels of experience with these technologies, rapidly dropping prices mean that, as Colorado Governor Hickenlooper recently noted, "Coal is no longer the low-cost fuel." That means renewable energy will be an increasingly important way for electric cooperatives to meet their commitment “to providing safe, reliable and affordable energy to our consumer-members on a not-for-profit basis.”
Governor-elect Jared Polis says moving Colorado toward more renewable energy will be a top priority
Electric cooperative officials discuss cheap renewable energy and an “eroding monopoly”
Delta Montrose Electric members vote for new financing options, supporting a potential buyout of Tri-State contract
Poudre Valley Electric requests Tri-State policy changes and fuel mix study
Holy Cross Energy plans to shift away from coal, aiming for 70% renewable energy
What do corporate renewable energy commitments mean for electric utilities?
Colorado Energy Plan approval will mean new renewable energy investments in rural Colorado
Report: Tri-State could save $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy
Delta Montrose Electric seeks new financing options to end contract with Tri-State
Wind energy jobs in rural Colorado attract bipartisan support
Colorado Energy Plan analysis shows switching from coal to renewable energy will boost jobs and local tax revenue
Poudre Valley Electric and Xcel Energy Colorado President win national awards from Smart Electric Power Alliance
Latest coal plant subsidy proposal could hit electricity bills in the West
Moody’s report: “High quality renewable resources” could help Tri-State and Basin Electric navigate rising carbon transition risks
Senator Heinrich highlights “frustrations in New Mexico” with Tri-State’s limits on local solar
Moody’s report shows Tri-State’s coal plants are more expensive than new renewable energy
Tri-State’s limits on local energy development are a growing problem for co-op members
Governor Hickenlooper discusses Tri-State at the Climate Leadership Conference
Bids for Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan include a proposal for the world’s largest battery
New wind and solar power in Colorado is now cheaper than existing coal plants
Companies' 100% renewable energy goals are getting results in Colorado
What does cheap solar mean for electric cooperatives?
Colorado towns and cities are helping push utilities to embrace renewable energy
How are electric cooperatives navigating the transition from coal to cheap clean energy?
Blocked from building more solar projects, United Power shifts to community batteries
Economic reality sets in for Tri-State efforts to expand the Holcomb coal plant
Solar projects in the works in Grand and Jackson counties
Mountain Parks Electric grapples with solar