Colorado, like most other states, is getting hotter and dryer. In May, 2021, NOAA released new data, showing Colorado Springs and Denver with the greatest increases.
In 2019, Governor Jared Polis began creating plans for Colorado to wean itself off fossil-fuel energy use, replacing it with renewable sources, and drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the coming years. In May of that year, Polis signed into law the Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution. That and the “Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap” (CGGPRR), also issued by the governor, set goals of reducing emissions from 2005 levels by at least 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. “This is our plan for creating a pathway to 100 percent renewable energy in our state, creating good green jobs that can never be outsourced, and saving people money on electricity,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press release from 2019. “The roadmap is not just about a vision, but includes concrete steps that will help us reap the economic benefits of renewable energy, curb pollution of our air, and fight climate change.”
According to the EIA, by 2020 Colorado’s net generation from coal-fired power plants was already 36%, down from 68% in 2010. During the same period, Colorado became the 7th natural gas-producing state but also tripled its renewables –led by wind and solar– accounting for 30% of the state’s total generation.
Polis’ legislation demonstrates its particular concerns with air pollution and health by addressing transportation and buildings — the biggest consumer sectors in Colorado accounting for 29.3 % and 27.6 % of the state’s energy consumption respectively.–a direction bolstered by a sense that the state’s power sector is already headed in the right direction.
By June, 2021, Governor Polis had also signed a bipartisan Energy Transition bill into law that will provide $15 million to help workers and localities dependent on coal transition to a clean energy economy. The money will fund the Office of Just Transition, which was created in 2019 to aid workers and communities dependent on coal as utilities in the state shift toward clean energy.
Colorado utilities are cutting their use of coal, in part due to the legislation requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but also because of the falling cost of wind and solar. “The key to a truly just transition unlocks new opportunities in more places than ever before — not only to provide jobs, but to support schools, and improve systems that are critical to powering our communities,” Polis said at the bill’s signing. In 2021, NPR’s Steve Inskeep covered a story of a closing coal plant transitioning to a new “kind of renewable energy storage.” It would reuse the steam turbine, the transmission facilities and add a massive tank of salt. When melted, the salt would create steam to run the turbine and generate electricity. Thus, creating power when the grid needed it.
Colorado State University-Pueblo became the first campus in the state to reach net-zero efficiency last week when the school switched on its 23-acre solar array project.
Colorado is one of twenty four states, plus Puerto Rico, committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors, created in 2017, committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.