By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
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.”
Lignite Energy Council shouldn’t be funded by utility ratepayers, Minnesota Attorney General argues
Major co-op supports Biden coal debt relief proposal that NRECA has sought to undermine
Basin Electric faces growing pressure on coal from co-ops, insurers, and banks
Tri-State: Moving a cooperative power provider from coal to clean energy
Tri-State will replace coal plants with a gigawatt of new wind and solar
United Power and La Plata Electric ask Colorado Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit fee
Colorado Rural Electric Association spent electric cooperatives’ money supporting Republican politicians
Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner questions "whether or not Tri-State has been candid with us"
Rural America could power a renewable economy - but first we need to solve coal debt
Tri-State explores FERC rate regulation to limit state oversight
Poudre Valley Electric sets "80 by 2030" carbon free goal
Guzman Energy proposal would finance retirement of Tri-State coal plants, add 1.2 gigawatts of new wind and solar power
Colorado Public Utilities Commission will oversee Tri-State resource planning
Colorado communities and state Energy Office urge Public Utilities Commission oversight of Tri-State
Reports examine the impacts of Tri-State's high wholesale power costs
Tri-State executive involved with anti-Clean Air Act group since 2005
US Congressional Committee requests details of Tri-State funding to anti-Clean Air Act group
Renewable energy projects stalled in 2018 among Tri-State member co-ops
Second co-op asks Tri-State to pull “Better Together” ads
Tri-State won’t allow co-op members to attend annual meeting
Tri-State expects member co-ops to support bylaw changes at annual meeting
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union calls on Tri-State to adopt flexible contracts and more clean energy
Co-ops in Colorado push for change at Tri-State
Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?
Tri-State ad campaign tells co-ops they’re “better together”
La Plata Electric concerned Tri-State debt will lead to higher rates
Colorado Public Utilities Commission asserts jurisdiction over Tri-State
More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals
Ski industry climate change efforts shift to electric utilities and their regulators
Public Utilities Commission rejects Tri-State motion to exclude Colorado Energy Office from exit charge case
Tri-State claims that co-ops "have intervened on Tri-State's behalf at the PUC” don’t add up
Colorado state legislators urge Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit charge
United Power says Tri-State policies are turning away large customers
Next PUC Commissioner John Gavan "consensus choice" of Governors Hickenlooper and Polis
Tri-State policy change discourages battery projects in rural Colorado and New Mexico
Colorado Public Utilities Commission orders Tri-State to "satisfy or answer" exit charge complaint from Delta Montrose Electric
United Power seeks solutions to "increasingly outmoded G&T business models"
Clean Energy Means Business Summit highlights renewable energy opportunities and challenges in rural Colorado
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