Colorado lawmakers will return to the Statehouse in January with an enormous opportunity to lower energy costs and improve electricity reliability for Coloradans. Yes, inflation will likely still be high, but so are the opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to work together on the energy issues facing our state.
Thanks to new federal legislation, billions in federal dollars and private investment are going to flow to the state, and our elected officials in the General Assembly, along with Gov. Jared Polis, will be in an ideal position to turn Colorado’s clean energy transition into an economic boom for the entire state.
The Inflation Reduction Act and last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law are designed to reduce energy costs for households and businesses. Electricity costs have a lot to do with where we get our energy from, and more local clean energy means Coloradans will be protected from the price volatility associated with fossil fuels.
State lawmakers and Gov. Polis will be tasked with making sure as many homes, schools, and businesses as possible use the money in the Inflation Reduction Act to adopt clean and energy efficient technologies that keep energy costs low. The demand created by the use of these dollars will make it easier for developers and utilities to launch new clean energy projects in Colorado. Meanwhile, our elected officials can make sure the state’s power providers are taking advantage of the 10 years of tax-credit certainty for new solar and wind projects, which will allow for even more steady growth of low-cost renewable energy.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly have already demonstrated the ability to find common ground on the state’s energy issues.
Two years ago, Colorado passed bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen energy affordability and reliability. The state has set the wheels in motion with the Colorado Electric Transmission Authority to build out new and updated transmission infrastructure that will function as a renewable energy highway. And by modernizing local energy infrastructure and working with other states across the West to better connect our electricity system, our state is on a promising path.
Better coordination with neighboring states will not only be key for delivering low-cost, reliable power when and where it’s needed most, but also give Colorado the ability to sell and export excess energy, adding a new revenue source to our economy and keeping the lights on at a lower cost during extreme weather.
This recent state law also opens the door for new and improved economic opportunities in rural communities. Connecting clean energy from hard-to-reach places with power centers that can send it across the state will translate into local jobs as we build out the transmission lines needed to link the two.
These jobs will provide paychecks to workers and families as part of Colorado’s larger clean jobs trend. As of 2021, the advanced energy industry accounted for 66,000 jobs in the state. Regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on, lawmakers should find it easy to galvanize around creating even more jobs. In the coming year, Colorado leaders can quicken the buildout of new renewable energy projects and much-needed transmission infrastructure to spur new jobs and secure safe, reliable power for all.
What’s more, the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law will spur additional investment in making our communities and our power grid more resilient to wildfires, severe weather, and other emergencies. New funding for clean back-up power sources like microgrids, energy storage technology, and even stored-up clean power in electric school bus batteries can help keep the power on for households and critical services during any situation.
We can already see how this will work. Xcel Energy, which covers millions of energy customers across Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and the Midwest estimates the Inflation Reduction Act will help cut the price tag of a new Minnesota solar project by about 20 percent and provide local jobs to a community with a closing coal plant. There’s no reason Colorado can’t benefit in similar ways.
Today, Coloradans are facing rising energy costs due to the price of natural gas, which is particularly high now but always volatile. But with bipartisan cooperation, forward-thinking energy policies, and the incoming federal investments to help support them, our lawmakers can lower costs and make sure all Coloradans can tap into the benefits of a clean energy economy.
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