The path to the governor’s mansion: CRES history Part 4: As a farm boy, Bill Ritter loathed #wind. But when he ran for governor, #renewables put wind at his back — @BigPivots

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter interviews Amory Lovins at the Center of the New Energy Economy conference on Oct. 30, 2017. Photo/Maury Dobbie

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

Bill Ritter Jr., the district attorney in Denver, knew nothing about energy when he decided to make a run at the governor’s mansion. He knew wind, though. He had grown up east of Aurora, near Buckley Air Force Base. “We leased a farm where we had cows, chickens, and horses. It was small. We started out with a section of ground that is near what is now Mississippi and Gun Club Road and then started farming a half-section on Sand Creek, north of Stapleton. It’s where the DIA employee parking lot is now,” he says.

“I hated wind,” says Ritter, recalling memories of driving tractors smothered in dust kicked up by spring winds.

Wolfson remembers meeting Ritter and his wife, Jeannie, as they were dining at a Mexican restaurant on Denver’s Santa Fe Drive called El Noa Noa. He debated whether it was proper to interrupt the dinner of the Ritters, but then boldly approached them and offered his knowledge. Wolfson remembers Jeannie Ritter poking the candidate in the ribs and telling him: “Accept that offer.”

And so they met a few days later, Wolfson the tutor, Ritter the eager and bright student who Wolfson says asked all the right questions. Ritter studied many issues. Eventually he produced a 54-page document of his plans under the heading of “The Colorado Promise.”

Ritter rode a narrow part of that promise to victory. He had conceived of an economy built around clean energy, dubbing it the “New Energy Economy.” But he didn’t make it central to his message until late in his campaign, in August or September of 2006.

The advertising team that Ritter had hired to create TV commercials wanted him in a small-town cafe talking with older people—well, older than he was then.

Colorado Green, located between Springfield and Lamar, was Colorado’s first, large wind farm. Photo/Allen Best

Ritter had a different idea. He wanted to be filmed standing in front of the 375-foot-tall wind turbines that John Stulp had shown him south of Lamar. The advertising team refused, he fired them, then hired a company who would make the commercial he wanted. His commercial about a new energy economy was a hit.

“That commercial resonated with people in a different way than other kinds of political commercials did,” says Ritter. He walked away with an easy victory in November 2006.

Ritter and like-minded legislators went on a tear. They upped the renewable portfolio standard for Xcel, this time with the consent of the utility, negotiating plans to replace coal with natural gas at two plants, and reformed what is now called the Colorado Oil &Gas Conservation Commission. During Ritter’s four years in office, 57 bills directly relating to clean energy or energy efficiency were passed. Just one bill had passed during the eight years of Ritter’s predecessor, Bill Owens. Later, during the eight years that John Hickenlooper was governor, the pace slackened again.

What role did CRES play in this? Wolfson had been an active member of CRES, but Ritter says he was not aware of CRES specifically until he had been governor for several years. Over time, he began to recognize familiar faces at bill signings and ribbon-cuttings of solar installations. In time, he connected the dots.

“The value of an organization like CRES is that in a world of creating policy, especially if you are ahead of yourself a bit, it’s good to have friends,” he says.

In 2009, Ritter signed HB08-1160, a law that extended solar net-metering to cooperative electrical utilities, at the farm near Niwot of Steve Szabo, a CRES member who later helped found the Boulder chapter.

While CRES provided the table for the bill signing, it was not commonly invited to the table the way Sierra Club or some environmental groups were. Still, Ritter sees an essential value in CRES and other such groups in advancing clean energy. “That’s one part of the policy puzzle, but it’s a very important part of it,” says Ritter of grassroots support.

Since 2007, when Ritter took office, wind capacity has taken off, growing from 290.8 megawatts to surpass 5,000 megawatts, accounting for nearly four-fifths of Colorado’s renewable energy production in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Capacity in Colorado is projected to double during the next few years.

Xcel Energy took its defeats with Colorado Green and then Amendment 37 in stride. After that, it set out to meet elevated renewable levels, becoming a national role model. That hasn’t ended disagreements. Critics note that the company always figures out a way to produce handsome returns for its investors. That fact is unassailable. But it has become a different company from what it was early in the 21st century.

Next: CRES grew rapidly in membership and then decided to spread its wings. That didn’t turn out as hoped. Why? That’s a nagging, unanswered question.

What you may have missed in this series:

Part 1: A coming together of minds in Colorado.

Part 2: Why note wind?

Part 3: Triumph at the polls

Or download the whole series in one e-magazine of Big Pivots 64..

Aspen gets more than half of its electricity from wind turbines just north of I-80 in the Nebraska panhandle. Photo credit The Mountain Town News.

#Snowpack news January 2, 2023

West snowpack basin-filled map January 1, 2023 via the NRCS.
Colorado snowpack basin-filled map January 1, 2023 via the NRCS.

‘The brink of disaster’: 2023 is a critical year for the #ColoradoRiver as reservoirs sink toward ‘dead pool’ — CNN #COriver #aridification

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter:

Click the link to read the article on the CNN website (Ella Nilsen and Rachel Ramirez). Here’s an excerpt:

The cuts that are needed are on an unprecedented scale, and officials will be fighting an uphill battle against a deep, multi-year drought to get them done. State officials tried drastic measures to cut their usage this year, but the river’s continued decline was an alarming reality check…Experts told CNN that even with a good winter and spring runoff season, water managers still need to plan for the worst-case scenario.

“You can’t live with no water in the reservoirs hoping for good years; you need to refill the system,” Eric Kuhn, former manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told CNN. “People realize that you can’t live on the brink of disaster.”


Anxiety is growing in the West as reservoir levels plummet. Negotiations between the states on voluntary water cuts have been tense and closely watched, particularly between the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada. Those talks have stalled amid disagreement on how much water each state should sacrifice and how much money farmers, tribal nations and cities should be paid to reduce their water consumption. State negotiators are themselves waiting for the feds to decide how it will dole out $4 billion in drought relief money, which the Biden administration fronted from the Inflation Reduction Act to essentially pay people to not use water.

“I would not say it has put anything on hold,” Buschatzke told CNN.

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Say hello to the “Monday Briefing” newsletter from @AlamosaCitizen #SanLuisValley #RioGrande #COleg

Rio Grande through the eastern edge of Alamosa July 5, 2022. Photo credit: Chris Lopez/Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the briefing on the Alamosa Citizen website. Here’s an excerpt:

The top story is always water

The Citizen’s 2022 Year in Water compilation will help you see more of the big picture – both with the unconfined aquifer and the confined aquifer of the Upper Rio Grande Basin. It’s important to see the fuller landscape, and we think the 2022 year in review does the trick. We would also direct you to our most recent podcast with state Sen. Cleave Simpson, who talks both about the upcoming 2023 legislative session and the critical time we’re in when it comes to water and irrigated ag in the San Luis Valley.