“All across the country and around the world, the race is on to build renewable energy markets - vibrant new hubs of green job creation, renewed investment and economic opportunity,” explains the report Investing in the Sun produced by Vote Solar and Environment Colorado.
The study models the economic and environmental benefits of developing solar electricity across the state and is designed to influence the Colorado Senate that is debating HB10-1001, a bill to require investor-owned utilities to dramatically increase their percentage of electricity sales coming from local, distributed renewable energy projects.
Colorado voters approved a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 10% in 2004, which was amended by politicians in 2007 to target 20% by 2020. The RPS would increase another 10% under this legislation which is supported by utilities because they would be allowed to collect some of their costs from consumers up front.
“Colorado has shown impressive early leadership by setting a strong renewable portfolio standard with a solar requirement,” the report notes. “Ramping up the DG solar requirement would unlock more of the state’s valuable solar energy resource, spurring job growth and associated environmental benefits.”
Benefits to energy, environment, economy
The legislation would incent the installation of 1 GW of renewable energy which would:
- Generate renewable power for 146,000 homes;
- Create 33,500 jobs in Colorado's New Energy Economy;
- Produce US$4.3 billion in total economic output (direct, indirect, induced economic activity generated through the construction and maintenance of the solar projects);
- Save 6.8 billion gallons of water;
- Avoid emission of 30 Mt of CO2.
HB 10-1001 is expected to deploy 700 MW of solar generation by 2020; extending the RPS to all state electricity producers (including Municipal Electric Utilities and Electric Co-ops) would boost new solar capacity to 1 GW.
Solar the best
“Solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy resource,” says Annie Carmichael of Vote Solar. “This study was intended to shine a spotlight on the real and immediate economic development opportunity Colorado could realise if a stronger statewide solar requirement were enacted.”
“We can be the best in the West by rolling up our sleeves and putting Coloradans to work building tens of thousands of solar rooftops on homes, stores, and office buildings across the state,” adds Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado. “Going solar is smart economic strategy, and a critical environmental solution and HB 1001 puts us squarely on track to get there.”
Vote Solar and Environment Colorado used the Job & Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), as well as inputs and assumptions from local solar energy system installers to develop the report.
Critics of the legislation say only 152 of the estimated jobs would be permanent while the balance would be construction work. There is also concern over the loss of jobs in the coal industry, which claims 21,000 person-years in Colorado.