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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Renewable Energy Create Jobs in Colorado

Julie Malone 4237
Renewable Energy

Final Paper Assignment

May 28, 20111

Renewable Energy Create Jobs in Colorado


With gasoline prices on the rise, the expansion of renewable energy (RE) must be a priority in Colorado. However, it may not be that simple. People are now realizing alternative methods, such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal, and wave, need to be used as the cost of energy and fossil fuel skyrocket. The purpose of this paper is to provide information of whether RE in Colorado will grow and create jobs in order to attract qualified people to the State. I will address Colorado's current energy use, generation resources being used, current state of RE generation, renewable technology, projected growth of energy demand, RE potential (current, future, and barriers), and policies to overcome.

Current Energy Use

Colorado’s population has grown to 5.0 million people as of 2010, ranking the state 22nd largest in the United States. The total current energy use (in Trillion Btu) is 1,498 (304 million Btu per capita) as of 2008:

  • Fossil Fuels: Coal (385.4), Natural Gas (508.5), Petroleum (496.2) (89.8 million barrels of oil)
  • Renewable Energy (81.7)
  • Net Interstate Flow of Electricity (26.2)

That breaks down for (in billion Btu) residential (350.1), commercial (300.2), industrial (412.5), and transportation (435.3) (EAI 2011).

Generation Resources Being Used

Coal at 3,045 thousand Megawatt hours (MWh) and natural gas at 826 thousand MWh fired power plants dominate electricity generation in Colorado. The state produces coal from both underground and surface mines, primarily in its western basins (Sand Walsh, Piceance, Paradox, and San Juan), and ships and markets it throughout the United States (U.S.). Colorado also brings in coal, primarily from Wyoming, to supplement local production. Colorado is a top natural gas-producing State with an output accounting for over five percent of U.S. natural gas production. Coalbed methane (unconventional natural gas produced from coal seams) accounts for over forty percent of Colorado's natural gas production and almost thirty percent of all coalbed methane produced in the U.S. (EIA 2009, 2011).

Petroleum-fired electricity generation is 1 thousand MWh, which accounts for only 0.1% share of the U.S. total. Colorado has enormous deposits of oil shale rock (marlstone) in The Green River Formation, a group of basins in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah that holds an estimated 1 trillion barrels of oil. However, there are no plans for the construction of commercial oil shale production facilities in Colorado. Hydroelectric (200 thousand MWh) and wind power (200 thousand MWh) facilities account for most of the State’s renewable electricity generation. However, much of Colorado’s substantial RE potential remains to be developed (EIA 2009, 2011).

Current State of Renewable Energy Generation

As of 2009, Colorado ranked relatively low in RE generation. In August 2009, a proposal was made for a biomass plant to be located in Vail that would use the thousands of trees that were recently killed by pine beetles to create a new sustainable source of energy. The proposed plant would reduce carbon emissions and forest fires in addition to creating a reliable source of energy that is likely to last at least ten years (EIA 2009). The latest data from EIA (2011) for Colorado, released April 2011, shows Total Renewable Net Generation to be 5,324 MWh generating from primarily wind (3,221 MWh) and hydro conventional (2,039 MWh), with small quantities of other biomass (37 MWh), solar (18MWh), and MSW/landfill gas (8 MWh).

Barriers for Renewable Energy Generation

The main barriers for RE generation include price competitiveness and regulations. Others are:

  • Unfavorable utility rate structures (rate increases) may increase unless energy is carefully monitored;
  • Absence of standard interconnection rules, uniform procedures, and technical requirements can make it difficult or impossible for renewable systems to connect to the electric utility's grid;
  • Necessary environmental permits for large-scale technology at major industrial facilities and officials are familiar with the environmental effects of the generation processes;
  • Many renewable resources are located in remote areas that lack ready or cost–effective access to transmission (EPA 2011).

Barriers to clean energy are not financial, but rather the bureaucratic red tape put forward by a system that was designed for an outmoded energy paradigm. It involves complex environmental studies, permitting issues, and water laws. Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has partnered with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to streamline permitting of small hydro projects in existing conduits in the state (Konrad 2011).

Colorado Renewable Energy Technology

Despite fierce competition from other regions of the U.S., Colorado is a disproportionately large player in the renewable energy industry. Colorado’s gross state product accounts for only about 1.7% of the U.S. GDP, but in 2007 Colorado had roughly 6% of the wind and photovoltaics market, and 5% of the biofuels market. Hottest sectors include: wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, biofuel, R&D (federal government), recycling, energy efficient windows/doors and green building (ASES 2009).

In 2010 clean technology was the only sector within the state to grow with 1,600 companies employing more than 19,000 workers. According to Tom Clark, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation’s executive vice president, more than 20 wind and solar businesses, manufacturers, and developers such as Aluwind, juwi Solar Inc, and REpower Systems are looking at the state to expand their operations have announced they would expand or relocate to Colorado. The largest committer is Vestas, the Denmark-based manufacturer of wind turbines, will invest more than $1 billion at four Colorado plants in Windsor, Brighton, and Pueblo. Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Inc. (RES Americas) established its North American base in Broomfield in 2008 (Rascalli 2011).

Projections for growth in energy demand going out to 2030

American Solar Energy Society (ASES 2008) posted an article that highlighted RE (wind, ethanol, solar, and federal research facilities, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and energy efficiency (insulation, recycling, energy efficient windows and doors) generated nearly 90,000 green-collar jobs in Colorado at the end of 2007 located throughout the state in major urban centers, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. ASES produced a report in 2009 listing different scenarios representing how Colorado’s renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE&EE) will create jobs and revenue for the future:

  • First: 613,000 green-collar jobs and $61.5 billion in annual revenue by 2030;
  • Second: 192,000 green-collar jobs (under the base case, “business as usual,” and no major change in policy or initiatives) and nearly $20 billion in revenue by 2030, less than one third the jobs and revenue than the advanced scenario;
  • Third: 238,000 green-collar jobs (moderate policies and initiatives and forecasts), and more than $24 billion in revenue by 2030.

The vast majority of jobs created by RE&EE include: electricians, truck drivers, welders, machinists, roofers, accountants, cashiers, software engineers, civil engineers and energy efficient construction and energy audit specialists. RE&EE is an effective job creation mechanism, generating 70% or more than 2.5 times as many jobs per revenue as the oil and gas sector.

On August 26, 2010 Governor Bill Ritter sent out a press release announcing that 23 New Energy Economic Development (NEED) grants: $2.2 million funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to recipients across Colorado for RE&EE projects that will help create and retain jobs, strengthen local economies, and save money and energy in communities, school districts and nonprofits (State of Colorado 2010).

Renewable Energy Potential, Now and Future

Renewable energy has a strong support team in Colorado. Organizations such as Alliance for Sustainable Colorado have a mission to advance sustainability through collaboration among nonprofits (The Nature Conservancy), businesses (Environment Colorado), government (U.S. Department of Energy) and education (local colleges and universities for real world experience) by working to advance economic, environmental, and social sustainability in Colorado by building cross-sector alliances, networks, and supplying job resources through Colorado Workforce Centers and job training grants. Green Jobs Pipeline for Women Project is one program created by the above organization to increase the number of Colorado women to become aware of green jobs, determine where opportunities exist, clarify what skills and training are needed to secure employment and identify organizations and best practices in helping women and other under-served populations gain and retain green jobs. The New Energy Economy offers a broad array of new employment opportunities in Colorado. There will be millions of job openings over the next 20 years for people with specific training in the so called “Green Jobs” field (Alliance for Sustainable Colorado 2011).

Policies Overcome Barriers

In March 2010, Governor Ritter signed House Bill (HB) 1001 to increase Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES) from 20% to 30% by 2020. The law opens up a new frontier of RE investment and jobs in Colorado, creating an expansive market for increased development of solar, energy, agricultural biomass and other innovative technologies. By mandating a renewable target of 2020, the RES enforces corresponding reductions in fossil fuel use, and at the same time, the creates a market that attracts new jobs and business investment in emerging renewable technologies to the state (Apollo Alliance 2011).

Mary Broderick, a Renewable Energy Agent with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 68, believes that this legislation makes Colorado a leader in clean energy as well as a leader in ensuring that workers are adequately trained and safe as everyone works together to make the New Energy Economy a reality. IBEW worked closely with the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association to arrive at policy that makes sense for the workforce, contractors and consumers.

For large-scale RE resources, such as wind farms and solar thermal facilities, the new RES law directs the state utilities commission to consider “best value” factors affecting employment and the economic health of Colorado communities when approving resource plans. Factors include:

  • Availability of apprenticeship programs;
  • Employment of Colorado workers;
  • Long-term career opportunities;
  • Industry-standard wages, health care, and pension benefits.

This creative approach was the product of close collaboration between environmental and labor members of the Colorado Apollo Alliance (Apollo Alliance 2011).

Over the last several years Colorado has done much at the state level to give Counties a framework and a "toolbox" to pursue and develop RE&EE programs leading to innovations not yet occurring at other levels of government. Local level policies and citizen efforts need to be tracked to promote RE&EE. The Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES 2011) created “The Colorado Local Clean Energy Policy Guide” to showcase and monitor innovations and activities, and to better understand the opportunities for advancing RE&EE projects within each County, and to provide individuals, businesses, and organizations with resources and ideas. CRES Policy Committee identified the State’s 64 county governments, 29 municipal utilities and 22 rural electric associations as some of the key players in local energy policy development. In the summer of 2010, the committee members created a survey of five open-ended questions, designed to allow each organization to tell its story and demonstrate the unique nature of resources and projects in its region:

  • What policies, incentives, programs or new ideas within the area are related to renewable energy, efficiency and sustainability?
  • Has the organization supported any type of resource assessments or feasibility studies to advance projects?
  • What finance innovations or partnerships in the area support renewable energy, efficiency and sustainability?
  • Any actual, new, or projected renewable energy or efficiency projects in the area?
  • Organizational barriers and/or what policies are needed to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the area?


Renewable energy is becoming vital to the growth of the State of Colorado and to this country. HB 1001 has made it possible for this state to create RE jobs to attract qualified, skilled people to restore the economy. After examining Colorado's current energy use, generation resources being used, current state of RE generation, renewable technology, projected growth of energy demand, RE potential (current, future, and barriers) and policies, this paper concludes that Colorado will create the jobs, it is just a matter of counties and companies allowing growth and having confidence in the job market and hiring workers.


Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. 2011. Green jobs pipeline for women project. http://sustainablecolorado.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/ gjw_resourcesheet.pdf (accessed May 6, 2011).

American Solar Energy Society (ASES). 2008. Renewable energy and energy efficiency generate nearly 90,000 jobs in Colorado. http://www.ases.org/ index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=289&Itemid=58 (accessed May 6, 2011).

Apollo Alliance. 2011. Colorado. http://apolloalliance.org/state-local/colorado/ (accessed May 6, 2011).

Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES). 2011. Colorado local clean energy policy guide. http://www.cres-energy.org/documents/LocalPolicyGuide-20110420-CRES_Final.pdf (accessed May 6, 2011).

Konrad, Tom. 2011. Alt Energy Stocks. Administration lays the groundwork for hydropower boom. http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/hydro/ (accessed May 3, 2011).

Rascalli, Ann. 2011. Colorado Energy News. Metro Denver EDC touts state’s cleantech growth. http://coloradoenergynews.com/2011/05/metro-denver-edc-touts-cleantech-growth/ (accessed May 25, 2011).

State of Colorado. 2010. Gov. Ritter announces $2.2M in new energy economic grants. http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/OIT-2/OIT2/1251579943568 (accessed August 26, 2010).

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 2008. Consumption, price, and expenditure Estimate. http://www.eia.gov/emeu/states/ hf.jsp?incfile=sep_sum/plain_html/sum_btu_1.html (accessed June 30, 2010).

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 2009. Analysis. http://www.eia.gov/state/state-energy-profiles-analysis.cfm?sid=CO (accessed May 26, 2011).

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 2011. Colorado renewable electricity profile. http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/ state_profiles/colorado.html (accessed May 26, 2011).

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 2011. Data. http://www.eia.gov/ state/state-energy-profiles-data.cfm?sid=CO (accessed May 26, 2011).

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). State and Local Climate and Energy Program. 2011. Renewable energy. http://www.epa.gov/ statelocalclimate/state/topics/renewable.html (accessed May 4, 2011).

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