Ranking 11th in the United States, Colorado has an estimated six million acres of windy lands primarily on the high plains. In support of harnessing this renewable energy resource, Colorado has a created a regulatory environment to attract the development of wind power.
Policies that encourage wind power include Energy Efficiency Resource Standards and Renewable Energy Standards. Just last year the Colorado House Bill 1001 was signed into law establishing a new Renewable Energy Standard requiring retail electric providers to generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources, including wind. In 2015, the Renewable Energy Standard in Colorado bumps up to 20%, and in 2020, jumps to 30%. As a balancing partner the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard mandates that investor-owned utilities must increase their energy efficiency requiring an 11.5% decrease in energy use by 2020. These two important energy standards promote the rapid growth of wind and other renewable energies in Colorado over the coming years and decrease in wasteful energy consumption.
Legislation passed over the last decade has also resulted in local and state level tax credits, incentives, rebates, loans and grants for renewable energy projects. The most significant programs for the wind industry are the state property tax incentives and grant programs. Grants are awarded from the Clean Energy Fund on a competitive basis.
Colorado ranks as one of the top five states in terms of capital generated for energy-related projects. Through 2010, Colorado for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects were designated more that $768 million in federal stimulus support. The Governor’s Energy Office program has a $13 million budget, $12 million of which will go towards large renewable energy companies that have struggled to obtain bank loans and $1 million to be used to support energy efficiency projects for small businesses.
According to a recent report published by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Colorado ranked 5th among all states for venture capital invested in renewable energy projects between 2006 and 2008, and 15th in competitively awarded federal stimulus grants for renewable energy projects.
Results of these efforts can be easily seen as wind power has nearly quadrupled on the grid since 2006. Several large wind farms with the capacities of more than 800 MW have sprung up in southwest and northeast Colorado. These wind farm are in need of a highly skilled work force and educational programs at the Colorado School of Mines and University of Colorado are attracting area talent.
The state also boasts the fourth highest concentration in the nation of clean energy jobs, with 19,420 jobs in clean energy and clean energy research.Colorado is a leader in the clean tech sub-cluster and while clean tech jobs increased nationally by about 10% over the last five years, Colorado clean tech jobs rose 30%. Much of that growth was in wind energy companies.
Colorado is leading the way in supporting renewable energy resources by creating a regulatory and business environment that is supportive of wind development. Without the measures wind energy would not be as prevalent. It takes a concerted cooperative effort by political and business leaders to implement policy and provide financial incentives to encourage the development of wind energy resources.