Natural Resources

CO Wind & Solar Renewable Energy Goals: Then and Now

In 2018, Colorado Governor Gary Polis set his sights on Colorado becoming the first state to run 100% on renewable energy. The goal? 2040. That’s five years earlier than both California and Hawaii, who are aiming for 2045.

It’s an ambitious goal, and one that experts expect to be challenging, to say the least. But two years after the announcement, where does Colorado stand?

2019 Legislation

To begin, the Colorado legislature passed a slew of bills in 2019 directly aimed at meeting the renewable energy goals, including:

19-1261 – Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution

As the centerpiece of the plan, 19-1261 requires state regulators to adopt regulations and strategies to achieve emission cuts of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050, all compared to 2005 levels.

19-096 – Collect Long-Term Climate Change Data

This bill requires the Air Quality Control Commission to collect greenhouse gas emission data from all gas-emitting entities at least every two years and propose a draft rule by July 1, 2020.

19- 1003 – Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act

Community solar gardens can now be 5 megawatts instead of 2 and the bill amended the current statute that authorizes the gardens.

19-1272 – Housing Authority Property in Colorado New Energy Improvement District

This long-winded bill clarifies that an owner of eligible property, including residential properties with at least 5 single-family dwelling units, can finance energy improvements through the C-PACE program.

19-1314 – Just-Transition from Coal-Based Electrical Energy Economy

Finally, this key piece of legislation adopted the Just Transition Office in the Division of Employment and Training in the Department of Labor and Employment. Essentially, the goal is to help transition coal-workers to new careers in emerging energy fields through education and training.

This is not a complete list of the 2019 clean energy legislation, but these are core bills for Colorado’s energy goals.  

Current Renewable Energy Production  

Despite the exhaustive legislation, experts are warning that Colorado is significantly off-track to meet its’ goals.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Western Resource Advocates (WRA), for example, both performed analyses and confirmed that Colorado, with its current emissions, policies and plans, will put the state at 30 million metric tons of emissions over the 2025 target, and 46 million metric tons over target by 2030.   

Although there is some progress and good news (Colorado’s electricity from renewable energy sources has doubled since 2010), experts are warning that it’s not enough and more needs to be done to meet the energy goals.

Challenges Encountered

From the beginning, the green energy goals have presented one key problem; finding a balance between green energy progress while protecting personal property, rights, and the economy.

Specifically, there is a lot of discussion around transmission build-out and market structures.

Transmission build-out refers to the task of making the western grid better capable of distributing green energy to the many widely spread rural communities of the west, including Colorado, New Mexico, and California. In regard to the market structures, experts warn that the utility companies and energy markets, in general, need to be able to communicate more effectively with customers about the many changes, as well as make decisions and create solutions for problems with no real precedence.

The Bottom Line

Two years after Governor Polis’ green energy goals, progress appears to be slow going as both environmental and legal experts work to find a balance while encountering challenges on all fronts. For more detailed information, please find our white paper here. (with link, if it’s live somewhere)

If you have questions about the renewable energy goals, policies, and regulations, and how they may affect your farm, ranch, business, or home, please call McDonough Law today.




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