Category Archives: National

Comparing Climate Action Plans

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
Governor Hickenlooper's Climate Plan predicts Colorado's emissions will rise 77% by 2030.
Governor Hickenlooper’s Climate Plan predicts Colorado’s emissions will rise 77% by 2030.

 

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.

Clean Power Plan: What Does It Mean For Colorado and the West?

What role will new carbon pollution regulations play in our region?

Light Refreshments 5:30 pm
Event starts at 6 pm
Monday, August 17th, 2015
Boulder Main Public Library

Boulder Creek Room – Main Floor

Join Clean Energy Action, Empower Our Future, 350 Colorado, New Era Colorado, and others for a discussion about the Clean Power Plan and its implications for Colorado and the West, featuring:

Stacy Tellinghuisen

Senior Energy and Water Policy Analyst
Western Resource Advocates

Join the event on Facebook and share it with your friends!

Tell the Bureau of Land Management to Stop the Coal Giveaway!

12 pm to 4 pm
Listening Session from 1 pm to 3 pm
Arrive at Noon to Signup and Enjoy Lunch
Marriott Denver West 
1717 Denver West Drive, Golden, CO 80401

In recent years, the Bureau of Land Management has “leased” a ton of coal in Colorado for the price of a gumball – 25 cents ! How can we halt climate change until we stop giving away coal on our public lands?

Join Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and other advocates as we tell the Bureau of Land Management to stop giving away coal on our public lands!

We need you to show up in person and tell BLM to:

  • Stop giving away our coal at subsidized prices.
  • Give American taxpayers a fair share of revenue from coal mined on public lands to support local education and infrastructure.
  • Include on a price on carbon in the cost of coal mined on public lands!
  • Keep it in the ground!

This is a rare opportunity to give direct feedback to the federal government on rules that haven’t changed in decades – don’t miss it!

Rural Colorado Leads the Charge for Energy Freedom

On June 25th the Denver Post reported on a huge victory for energy freedom and rural renewable power on the Western Slope of Colorado. We’ll explain what happened – and why is it so exciting.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Delta-Montrose), a rural electric co-operative serving 35,000 customers, sought to purchase cheap, reliable and renewable power from a small hydroelectric dam on an irrigation canal in Montrose.  That seems simple enough – provide your customers with affordable, clean power that’s right in your backyard – why not? What was standing in Delta-Montrose’s way?

Seems simple enough – provide your customers with affordable, clean power that’s right in your backyard – why not?

What stood in Delta-Montrose’s way was a contract with its wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmissionrestricting their freedom to access clean energy. Delta-Montrose buys power from the large utility Tri-State and then sells that power to its members. Tri-State’s contract confined Delta-Montrose, and the 44 other rural electric co-ops it serves, to buying  95% of their electricity from Tri-State. Even if affordable renewables were available literally right next door, these rural electric utilities couldn’t buy them.

What stood in Delta-Montrose’s way was a contract with its electric power supplier restricting their freedom to access clean energy.

So Delta-Montrose took Tri-State to court – administrative court: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Delta-Montrose argued that federal law, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), allowed – even compelled – them  to purchase power from the dam. You see, PURPA was written to encourage exactly the kind of power the dam provided: affordable, renewable power from a small facility.  Last week, FERC agreed, stating plainly in its decision that “the mandate of PURPA to encourage… small power production,” like the dam on the irrigation canal, “supersede[s] contractual restrictions on a utility’s ability to obtain energy” from small renewable producers.

In other words, rural co-ops must be free to power themselves with the energy resources right in their backyards, no matter what contractual obligations they might have. Freedom to access local renewables trumps other concerns, opening up a new market for clean energy.

Rural co-ops must be free to power themselves with the energy resources right in their backyards.

The implications of this ruling – and the fact that it lines up congruently with FERC’s previous decisions – are enormous for energy freedom and rural co-operatives across the West.  Whether it is hydro, wind, or solar, rural areas are home to tremendous renewable resources. They should be free to make the most of them. It is energizing to see federal regulators acknowledging and protecting that right.

Will this decision empower communities across the West to throw off their contractual shackles and to repower their communities with clean, affordable energy?  Stay tuned, and we’ll see on which energy sources the West is run.

Geology and Markets, not EPA, Waging War on Coal

With the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules limiting carbon pollution from the nation’s electricity sector, you’ve no doubt been hearing a lot of industry outrage about “Obama’s War on Coal.”

Don’t believe it.

Despite the passionate rhetoric from both sides of the climate divide, the proposed rules are very moderate — almost remedial.  The rules grade the states on a curve, giving each a tailored emissions target meant to be attainable without undue hardship.  For states that have already taken action to curb greenhouse gasses, and have more reductions in the works, they will be easy to meet.  California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, are all several steps ahead of the proposed federal requirements — former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter told Colorado Public Radio that he expects the state to meet the proposed federal emissions target for 2030 in 2020, a decade ahead of schedule.  This isn’t to say that Colorado has particularly clean power — our state has the 10th most carbon intensive electricity in the country, with about 63% of it coming from coal — but we’ve at least started the work of transitioning.

Furthermore, many heavily coal dependent states that have so far chosen to ignore the imperatives of climate change (e.g. Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky) must only attain single-digit percentage reductions, and would be permitted to remain largely coal dependent all the way up to 2030.  Roger Pielke Jr. and others have pointed out that in isolation, the new rules would be expected to reduce the amount of coal we burn by only about 15%, relative to 2012 by 2020.  By 2030, we might see an 18% reduction in coal use compared to 2012.  Especially when you compare these numbers to the 25% reduction in coal use that took place between 2005 and 2012, and the far more aggressive climate goals that even Republicans were advocating for just two presidential elections ago, it becomes hard to paint the regulations as extreme.  Instead, they look more like a binding codification of plans that already exist on the ground, and a gentle kick in the pants for regulatory laggards to get on board with at least a very basic level of emissions mitigation.

So, in isolation, there’s a limited amount to get either excited or angry about here.  Thankfully, the EPA’s rules will not be operating in isolation!

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