Colorado’s energy transition can become an economic boom

Colorado lawmakers will return to the statehouse in January with a tremendous opportunity to reduce energy costs and improve power reliability for Coloradans. Yes, inflation will likely still be high, but so are opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to work together on the energy issues our state faces.

Thanks to new federal legislation, billions of federal dollars and private investment will flow into the state, and our elected officers in the General Assembly, along with Governor Jared Polis, will be ideally positioned to drive Colorado’s clean energy transition, an economic boost for the entire country.

The Inflation Reduction Act and last year’s non-partisan Infrastructure Act aim to lower 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 are protected from the price swings associated with fossil fuels.

State legislatures and Governor Polis will be tasked with ensuring that as many homes, schools and businesses as possible use money from the Inflation Control Act to adopt clean and energy-efficient technologies that keep energy costs down. The demand created by using these dollars will make it easier for developers and utilities to launch new clean energy projects in Colorado. In the meantime, our elected officials can ensure that the state’s utilities use the 10-year tax credit security for new solar and wind projects, which will allow for even more steady growth in low-cost renewable energy.

Legislators in the General Assembly have already demonstrated an ability to find common ground on state energy issues.

Two years ago, Colorado passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen energy affordability and reliability. The state has started the wheels with the Colorado Electric Transmission Authority to build a new and updated transmission infrastructure that will act as a renewable energy highway. And by modernizing local energy infrastructure and working with other states in the west to better connect our power system, our state is on a promising path.

Better coordination with neighboring states will not only be key to delivering low-cost, reliable energy when and where it’s needed most, but also gives Colorado the ability to sell and export excess energy to bring a new revenue stream to our economy Add and maintain the lights during extreme weather at a lower cost.

This new state law also opens the door to new and improved economic opportunities in rural communities. Connecting clean energy from hard-to-reach places to power centers that can send it across the state will create local jobs as we build the transmission lines needed to connect the two.

These jobs will provide paychecks to workers and families as part of Colorado’s larger trend toward clean jobs. As of 2021, the advanced energy industry accounted for 66,000 jobs in the state. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, it should be easy for lawmakers to push for even more job creation. In the coming year, Colorado leaders can accelerate the rollout of new renewable energy projects and much-needed transmission infrastructure to create new jobs and ensure safe and reliable electricity for all.

In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Act will encourage additional investment to make our communities and power grid more resilient to wildfires, severe weather, and other emergencies. New means of clean backup power sources such as microgrids, energy storage technology, and even stored clean power in electric school bus batteries can help keep homes and critical services powered in any situation.

We can already see how this will work. Xcel Energy, which powers millions of energy customers in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and the Midwest, estimates the Inflation Reduction Act will help reduce the price of a new solar project in Minnesota by about 20 percent and provide a community with local jobs to offer coal power plant close. There’s no reason Colorado couldn’t benefit in a similar way.

Today, Coloradans face rising energy costs due to the currently particularly high but always volatile price of natural gas. But with bipartisan cooperation, proactive energy policies, and the incoming federal investments to support them, our lawmakers can cut costs and ensure that all Colorado residents can reap the benefits of a clean energy economy.