by chip comins | June 1, 2010 | Lifestyle
CHIP COMINS: When you ran for governor in 2006, you campaigned on a new-energy economy platform. How has this emerged in Colorado and shaped your administration?
GOVERNOR BILL RITTER: When Colorado passed the first voter-approved renewable-energy standard in 2004, it marked a new direction for our state. We were just beginning to see the potential opportunities of building a new-energy economy. Since then, Colorado has become a national leader in building a 21st-century economy that is economically,
environmentally and energy secure.
In 2004, Amendment 37, with a 10 percent renewable-energy requirement for Colorado’s large utility companies by 2015, attracted the state’s first wind farms and solar facilities; in 2007, within my first 100 days in office, I doubled that requirement to 20 percent by 2020. The result: thousands of new jobs, new companies forming in and relocating to Colorado and more affordable and reliable clean energy available to homeowners and businesses throughout the state.
Some of our biggest victories: Denmark-based Vestas Blades is locating its North American manufacturing hub here in Colorado, creating 2,500 good-paying jobs; and Germany-based SMA Solar Technologies is building its first production facility outside of Germany in Colorado, creating up to 700 jobs. Colorado is now home to the fourth-highest concentration of renewable-energy and energy-research jobs in the country. During this recession, the new-energy economy has been our brightest and strongest economic sector. The success we’ve had in attracting new companies and expanding others has encouraged my administration to push for an even higher renewable-energy standard: At my direction, the legislature this year increased the standard to 30 percent by 2020, the best in the West and among the highest nationally. This will attract even more investment and jobs.
[Ed note: On March 31, Governor Ritter signed into law the Colorado Clean Air–Clean Jobs Act. It will require Xcel Energy to either retrofit or shut down coal power plants around the state and to increase its use of natural gas.]
CC: How has the new-energy economy shaped Colorado’s future under your leadership?
BR: Colorado’s new-energy economy is built on a strong “ecosystem” concept that will not only allow us to compete but also to lead the world in developing the next generation of clean-energy technology. This ecosystem approach ensures we have the best research minds in our public and private laboratories, that we are transferring innovative technologies to the marketplace, that we have a well-educated and highly skilled workforce manufacturing and installing these new-energy products and that we have a vibrant venture-capital community supporting these efforts. Additionally, we have visionary elected leaders who are committed to advancing the new-energy economy.
Future generations of Coloradoans will produce and consume energy differently than we do today. Renewable energy, along with energy efficiency, conservation and cleaner-burning natural gas, will be the keys to having secure, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for the future.
CC: During your tenure as governor, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory—a partnership between the state, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado State University, University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado School of Mines—was created. Why is this an important undertaking and effort?
The governor signs legislation in 2007 to double Colorado’s renewable-energy standard.
BR: Colorado is home to several world-class laboratories and universities that are leaders in research and development of emerging energy technologies. By forming the Collaboratory, the institutions gain the advantages of sharing resources that ultimately will hasten the transfer of these advances from the lab to the marketplace.
Since 2007, the Collaboratory has developed research centers such as the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, the Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion and the Center for Research and Education in Wind. These centers have been critical in attracting private industry and grant dollars to Colorado. I believe the Collaboratory has been and will continue to serve as one of the key drivers of the new-energy economy in Colorado.
CC: Has Colorado’s new-energy economy influenced the national agenda?
BR: In February 2009, we had the honor of hosting President Barack Obama in Colorado to sign The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama selected Colorado in part because our new-energy economy is serving as a model and can show other states how to emerge quicker, stronger and healthier from the recession. What is clear about the new-energy economy is that it works. Even during this economic downturn, companies are moving to and expanding their operations in Colorado.
CC: Do you hope this will be the lasting legacy of your term as governor?
BR: Absolutely. My administration has helped grow and advance a new-energy economy that voters launched with the passage of Amendment 37 in 2004. We’ve been able to provide jobs and business and economic opportunities for people all across the state, amid the worst recession since the Great Depression. We’ve made Colorado a national leader that is now recognized on a global stage. We’ve influenced the energy and climate debates nationally, and we are producing innovative solar, wind and biomass technologies that will help shape and define our energy future. My hope is that future governors, lawmakers and generations will take our work and continue to build on it, that they will use our successes to find newer and better ways to continue expanding the new-energy economy.
TOP: Governor Bill Ritter at a ceremony commissioning a new Siemens Energy wind turbine at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Wind Technology Center
photographs courtesy of the office of governor ritter