Colorado used to be counted among national leaders on climate change and renewable energy, with citizens voting in favor of a 2004 initiative to establish a renewable energy standard for qualifying utilities. These standards were then increased multiple times by the Colorado Legislature to their current level, 30% renewable generation for investor-owned utilities by 2030 and 20% for large electric co-operatives.
Now, as governors from three states – California, New York and Colorado – release plans or sign legislation related to climate change and renewable energy, it is clear that Colorado no longer leads on these issues.
Jerry Brown, California
Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 350, landmark legislation to reduce air pollution and increase renewable energy. This legislation requires his state to:
- Generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030
- Double energy efficiency of homes, offices and factories
- Incentivize utilities to install electric charging stations
- Authorize the California grid operator, CAISO, to transform itself into a regional energy market, potentially spurring renewable energy development across the West
Andrew Cuomo, New York
Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new climate change commitments for his state. Here are his four major actions:
- Joined California in signing the Under 2 MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), a compact between states, provinces and cities around the world committing them to limit emissions in line with a 2 degrees Celsius increase in global average temperature, vowing to reduce emissions between 80% and 95% below 1990 levels by 2050 (and/or below 2 metric tons per capita annually by 2050
- Declared his intention to link the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade market reducing emissions in nine Northeastern states, with other markets in California, Quebec and Ontario
- Committed to putting solar on 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020
- Install renewable energy systems at all 64 State University of New York campuses
John Hickenlooper, Colorado
While California and New York make new commitments and take pioneering steps to bring energy storage online and reimagine the electric grid, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper presented his 2015 Climate Action Plan in mid-September. It’s fair to say his plan is a step backward for Colorado as the plan:
- Lacks specific emissions reductions goals. While previously Governor Ritter had set a goal of 80% emissions reductions by 2050, Hickenlooper’s plan skirts even referencing these goals specifically
- Proposes no new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Celebrates mining, oil and gas as pillars of Colorado’s economy
- Projects that by 2030 Colorado’s emissions will increase 77% from 1990 levels
Where to from here for Colorado?
Despite its deficiencies, Hickenlooper’s plan proudly states that “Colorado is on the right track.” So where will the Governor’s business-as-usual approach take Colorado?
Interestingly, buried in the Plan itself is the answer. Colorado, famous for its beauty in all seasons, is on track for an average temperature rise of more than 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, making seasonal temperatures in Denver most “closely resemble… Albuquerque.”
Colorado has already seen the devastating effects of climate change on our state: the ravages of pine beetle infestations, more intense floods and more destructive fires. If the Governor wishes to preserve the Colorado that Coloradans know and love, he ought to listen to what leaders on climate and renewable energy in New York and California are saying.
Since Governor Hickenlooper’s Energy Office has stressed that this plan is work in progress one can only hope that future versions of the plan include goals based in science and concrete actions to achieve those goals. States that are “on the right track” – New York and California – have these goals and initiatives. Colorado ought to as well.