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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Colorado’s climate future is now. Let’s confront the challenges and seize the opportunities.

Colorado is on the front lines of climate change with impacts that are already affecting our state’s economy, quality of life and natural beauty.

This is why the legislature and governor have adopted science-based emissions targets — to align our state with the scale and pace of emissions reductions needed to mitigate the worst of these impacts. 

Will Toor

The governor and General Assembly worked together last session to pass groundbreaking legislation.

New Colorado law sets greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals for the state, requires our largest utility to achieve 80% reductions in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, directs state utility regulators to consider the full costs of damages associated with climate pollution and establishes a pathway to clean energy for rural utilities while also supporting a just transition for workers and communities negatively impacted by a shift from coal.

The heart of our work on reducing emissions is transitioning to renewable electricity. Electricity generation has historically been the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the state, driven by emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants.

But the advent of low-cost renewable energy is making it possible to retire old power plants and replace them with lower cost wind and solar — while saving customers money. 

And Colorado utilities are acting.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Xcel Energy announced a goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 and is required to submit a plan to the state that will achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

In January, Gov. Jared Polis stood with the CEO of Tri-State Generation and Transmission — which provides electricity for much of rural Colorado — as the power supplier announced plans to close its coal plants in the state and replace them with wind and solar.

Holy Cross Energy adopted a goal of 70% renewables by 2030 but is now planning to achieve this objective 10 years early.

This opens up vast possibilities for reducing emissions by switching to electricity to power our cars, homes and businesses — all while saving Coloradans money.

Gov. Polis opened his term in January 2019 by setting a goal of 940,000 EVs on Colorado roads by 2030 and signed into law five pro-EV bills including extending tax credits through 2025 and enabling utilities to invest in charging infrastructure.

The state adopted a rule requiring automobile manufacturers to increase the number of EVs sold in Colorado and is building a network of fast-charging stations along major highways. Colorado EV sales have grown by 150% in just two years.

Now the administration is supporting legislation that will reduce emissions in buildings and require utilities to help customers electrify their homes and businesses.

Our state air regulators have adopted new rules to require oil and gas producers to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution, and have proposed rules to limit use of super-pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons.

In just over a year, we have accomplished a great deal. But we will need to do more to achieve our climate goals and realize the full economic potential of a transition to a clean energy economy.

This is why the state is engaging in an evidence-based process to develop a Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap. This Roadmap will model the impacts of recent legislative and administrative policy changes, evaluate additional strategies, and develop action recommendations by the end of the year.

On Feb. 20, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will host a public hearing in which the commission will be briefed on state agency climate actions and the initial Roadmap analysis.

The Colorado Energy Office website will offer updates on the Roadmap process with opportunities for online input of your ideas for mitigation strategies. There will be additional opportunities for in-person public engagement later this spring and summer.

We encourage the public to participate and help Colorado confront the challenges — and seize the opportunities — of transitioning to a clean energy economy that preserves and protects the place we all call home. 

 Will Toor is executive director of the Colorado Energy Office.