Conservation and the economy - part 3
Clean Energy Solutions
Clean Energy Solutions adopted or considered by the 2009 Colorado State Legislature:
• Solar Financing Program - S.B. 51 (Sen. Carroll, Rep. Levy)
This bill expands access to solar and other renewable systems by eliminating upfront costs. By allowing farms, businesses and homeowners to enter into third-party financing agreements, owners get the benefits of a renewable energy system - like stable, predictable energy costs - without a big down payment. The third-party provider buys the equipment, installs it and maintains it.
Update: S.B. 51 was signed into law this year.
• Solar Ready Homes - H.B. 1149
(Rep. Merrifield, Sen. Carroll)
Currently, new homebuyers are offered options for counter tops, flooring and appliances, but they are not offered a simple option that will help them reduce their monthly energy bills.
Making this investment up front, before the purchase, reduces the overall costs for the system. By reducing the overall cost and the payback time for the system, HB 1149 makes clean energy accessible to more Coloradans and at the same time helps to grow Colorado's solar energy industry.
Update: H.B. 1149 was signed into law.
• Solar Thermal Financing - H.B. 1126 (Rep. Solano, Sen. Shaffer & Isgar)
Taking another important step in building Colorado's clean energy economy, H.B. 1126 would allow local governments to provide the same incentives for solar thermal energy as they do for solar electric.
With 300 days of sunshine a year, Colorado is ideal for turning sunlight into energy using technology that is dependable, quiet and has a wide range of applications. One great example is solar thermal energy, the process of heating water utilizing energy from the sun. H.B. 1126 will create 1,000 Colorado jobs over five years, lower utility bills and protect our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Update: H.B. 1126 was signed into law.
• Renewables for Schools Support H.B. 1312 (Rep. Andy Kerr, Sens. Romer & Schwartz)
Producing energy on-site with wind and solar will help schools reduce their utility bills, create a buffer against future energy price spikes, and put more money toward educating our children. H.B. 1312 creates an innovative program to provide schools access to affordable clean energy with low-interest loans. As a result, it will expand opportunity and access to the new energy economy by helping school districts avoid the upfront costs of renewable energy improvement.
Update: H.B. 1312 was signed into law.
• Coordinated Transmission Planning - H.B. 1345 (Rep. Solano, Sen. Schwartz)
Colorado is on the forefront of building a new energy economy, but to maximize its potential, the power generated from Colorado's windy plains and sunny south must be connected to other states in the region.
Colorado needs a coordinated statewide transmission plan to effectively participate in the development of a regional market. H.B. 1345 will help ensure Colorado's ability to develop a state transmission plan by creating a collaborative process among power providers, regulators, and other interested parties.
Update: H.B. 1345 was signed into law.
• Graduated Electric Rates - S.B. 39 (Sen. Schwartz, Rep. Curry)
Across the state, people are using more and more power despite having the technology and the know-how to cut down our energy use.
S.B. 39 gives cooperative utilities the flexibility to adopt graduated rates based on energy consumption, allowing utilities to reward consumers who are doing their best to conserve electricity and utilize a market-based signal to help customers make smart choices about how to use energy more wisely. With less money spent on electric bills, consumers will have more dollars in their pockets to reinvest in the local economy.
Update: S.B. 39 was signed into law.
• Incentives for Efficient Motor Vehicles - H.B. 1331 (Rep. Gagliardi, Sen. Boyd)
With transportation fuels contributing close to a third of Colorado's global warming pollution, it is essential that we take advantage of the cleaner fuel technology available and help provide a much-needed boost to the auto industry. H.B. 1331 would help support the increased use of the "next generation" of hybrid, compressed natural gas and alternative fuel vehicles through the modification and extension of the hybrid-vehicle tax credit. H.B. 1331 adds incentives for plug-in hybrid electric and plug in hybrid conversions, the cleanest vehicles on market. Update: H.B. 1331 passed the House and Senate.
This summer, Friends of Northwest Colorado and Colorado Environmental Coalition plan to host meetings to discuss funding and legislative mechanisms for local and regional green energy projects.
Visit www.savevermillion.org for further information.
Craig Editor's note: Below is part three of a four-part series submitted by the Friends of Northwest Colorado. The remaining part will be published in a future edition of the Saturday Morning Press.
How do we get Vestas Wind or Namaste Solar to develop wind and solar in Northwest Colorado? How do we get our piece of the new green, energy economy pie?
In the last part of this four-part series about conservation and the economy, we raised the idea of Natural Dividends. Natural Dividends describe the dollar values that natural amenities, such as clean air, abundant water, protected land and healthy wildlife provide to our economy.
In this part of the series we focus on wind, water, solar hydro and geothermal resources that are being captured, harnessed and produced into renewable sources of energy that are driving the new green economy.
Data from the U.S. Geological Survey of Minerals consistently shows that if we were to extract every possible known source of oil and gas in the United States we might have 75 years of energy.
Production at that scale would decimate entire landscapes and forever change the heritage and life in Western U.S. communities. Moreover, even if we could access all of those sources, we simply do not have enough rigs, refineries or advanced technology to drill our way to energy independence.
We have to find other ways to meet our energy needs - ways that will not harm the health of our air, water, land and communities.
A number of conservation organizations in late 2008 formulated key principles for Balancing Renewable Energy Development and Land Conservation in a Warming World.
The plan identifies a national need to enact additional energy conservation measures, implement more efficient technologies, and obtain more energy from clean renewable sources.
The plan outlines how these steps could be taken in a way that also protects our environment and ensures that renewable development is truly sustainable.
The plan gives some very compelling economic reasons for green energy. Investments in transforming our energy infrastructure and training our work force will yield significant economic growth and job creation.
In fact, one study shows, on average, green investments create more than twice as many jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuel generation technologies.
Clean energy investments redirect money previously sent overseas or wasted on polluting fossil fuels development toward advanced technology, modern infrastructure and skilled labor.
Moreover, renewable energy development on private lands offers benefits to landowners through sale or lease of their lands, and local communities can enjoy the tax benefits of locating such projects on private lands.
Green energy is profitable.
T. Boone Pickens, an oil gazillionaire, put it simply when he recently told Ted Turner that he was looking at green energy not because he was an environmentalist, but because it makes good business sense. The Pickens plan has some major flaws, but the idea that "green" energy is good business is a sound idea.
"Green jobs" are growing nearly 2 1/2 times as fast as traditional jobs, finds a new study by Pew Charitable Trusts.
We've got wind and we've got sun - are we going to get companies interested in coming to Northwest Colorado to develop these resources?
Two key factors help commercial enterprises such as Vestas determine where to develop natural resources: the amount of resource potential and access to transmission infrastructure.
Just as with mineral resources, natural resources are found in varying concentrations or potentials. The Department of the Interior has directed several agencies to map the potential of wind, solar and geothermal resources across the country.
Our region has not mapped as high in potential nor do we have as cost-effective access to transmission as do other areas with higher potentials in the West. This means that until riper places are developed for renewable resources, our area is not as likely to see commercial-scale development of renewable resources. That's the bad news.
Commercial-scale renewable energy might not be in our immediate future. However, we still have opportunities for our share of the new green renewable energy industry.
Renewable energy is required at different scales across the landscape. There are significant opportunities for smaller-scale projects, such as rooftop solar panels.
We are as ripe as many places for small-scale, dispersed renewable energy development. The engineering company CH2M Hill is now joining hands with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide Internet solar maps of 25 American cities, using Google Earth technology to chart the precise solar potential of neighborhoods, literally rooftop by rooftop.
To assist in building smart transmissions systems, Tri-State could take a lead in upgrading and expanding the electric grid in our area to reduce the 50 percent of electricity lost in old transmission systems and allow for connection to renewable energy sources as those come online.
Dispersed renewable energy mapping, along with 2009 State legislation (see pullout on page 12), will help innovative businesses in our region to get a piece of the green energy economy. If our local energy companies step forward to develop a smart grid, we could see solar, wind and geothermal as real options.
Biofuel development is another area in which we have seen some major regional developments.
Care must be taken when developing biofuels; they can be part of the solution to global warming - decreasing the carbon footprint of the fuels we use - or part of the problem - endangering ecosystems already threatened by climate change with inappropriate resource development.
However, with important safeguards, biofuels can help fight climate change and bolster local economies.
Four Colorado projects designed to convert wood waste to energy and energy feedstocks each received grants of $250,000 through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last month.
The projects, in Grand, Fremont, El Paso and Boulder counties, are designed to convert wood collected during wildfire mitigation projects into energy - including wood derived from pine-beetle infested regions. The grants will help fund the innovative projects, including installation of woody biomass boilers and the processing of wood waste for a wood pellet facility.
"Wood-to-energy is a key component of our New Energy Economy, and these USDA grants reflect Colorado's national leadership in advancing biofuels and renewable energy," Gov. Bill Ritter said. "These funds provide a boost to innovative businesses developing this technology, and help restore and manage Colorado's forests and natural resources."
Soon home and business owners will have the information, the technology and the legal mechanisms to allow for individualized energy production. When individual people and small communities can produce their own energy; then we not only benefit the environment, we gain true energy independence.
If we are to profit from the New Energy Economy, our community leaders, elected officials and economic development committees should take a close look at incentives and laws that encourage small business, land owner and home owner development of small-scale energy production. They also should continue to encourage large energy industries to develop their renewable or clean technologies in our region.
Regional and state governments must continue to lead the charge to best shape this new green economy.