Gov. Hickenlooper town hall recap

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

“Colorado basically has the number one economy in America,” the governor remarked, stressing that the demands for agricultural products will remain one of our economic mainstays as it did to help the country out of the Great Depression decades ago. Hickenlooper acknowledged the disparity of growth between the Front Range and rural areas of the state, explaining that he wants to see more technological growth in rural areas including more access to broadband capabilities in the smallest towns in the state.

The governor addressed changing technologies as well, “Automation has begun to eliminate a lot of jobs in the U.S.,” he explained, adding that this change can foster tremendous wealth in some companies which flows upwards to the top 1% earnings bracket. “I’d like to see a way to recoup some of that wealth. I believe the top 1% has an obligation to help create and develop new industries; not as a hand-out, but as a way of sustaining job growth for new sectors of the economy.” The governor also mentioned employing the new Jumpstart program which can provide tax incentives to new businesses after they have been in operation for several years…

John Stulp gave a brief description of future water demands in Colorado, given the state’s growing population. “We’re going to see as many people move to the state over the next 30 years as there will be born from current residents,” he explained, saying that will double the current 5,000,000 residents by the year 2050. Stulp said this will call for more efficient uses of energy and conversation measures as well as planning ahead for additional water storage throughout Colorado.

Regarding the development of more solar and wind power in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper said it is remarkable that for the first time in almost 50 years, the country will be in a position to be a net exporter of energy by 2018. He said we are facing a challenge with the construction of transmission lines in the region. “The city doesn’t build them, the county doesn’t either. It has to go through the Public Utilities Commission and that is a long and involved process and they are held responsible for making the most cost-effective decisions for their customers.” The governor said he believed the state will see increased construction and use of wind and solar power in the years to come.

The meeting was attended by numerous elected officials as well as representatives of local government and civic organizations. When asked if the topics covered in the public meeting were any different from an earlier private meeting the governor held with some of those officials, the Prowers County Commissioners said some other topics included the on-going issues with conservation easements and the impact CDPHE rulings would have on small communities with regard to maintenance of their landfills.

Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight — @HighCountryNews @ClimateReality #ActOnClimate

Denver, June 8, 2015. Photo credit Climate Reality Project.

From The High Country News (Elizabeth Shogren):

Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.

Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers.

But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision…

Apparently big electric companies are learning that given the broad popularity of solar in the sunny desert region, they will have to accommodate rooftop solar instead of trying to kill it. This reflects the growing political might of the solar industry as it’s seen as a key job creator in much of the Southwest.

Please consider coming by the Community Building at Thornton’s Community Park on May 16th. I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis as part of the Climate Reality Project. Children are welcome. We’ve already baked in a lot of uncertainty about the future for them. The presentation revolves around three questions: Should we act; Can we act; and, Will we act? I’ll bring you up to date on the engineering effort around renewable energy.

Details:

  • What: Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update
  • Where: Thornton Community Park Community Building (Near the swimming pool), 2211 Eppinger Blvd, Thornton, CO 80229
  • When: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • About the Climate Reality Project:

    With glaciers melting, seas rising, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record coming this century, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. But with solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions becoming more affordable and accessible every year, neither has the way forward. And with 195 countries signing the historic Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases the world is finally united in working to seize the promise of renewables and create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future powered by clean energy.

    What’s in the way? Powerful fossil fuel companies and their government allies spreading fear and misinformation.

    Led by Vice President Gore and CEO Ken Berlin, we’re here to change that. We connect cutting-edge digital media, global organizing events, and peer-to-peer outreach to share the truth about climate change and the solutions in our hands today with people everywhere. And with our more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leader activists building support for pro-climate policies at every level, and millions joining us to accelerate the global transition to clean energy, we have the chance to stop climate change and together create a future we can be proud of. We’re not about to waste it.

    Colorado Coal Country Sees Economic Salvation In Solar, Organic Farming — @NewsCPR

    West Elk Mine. Photo credit Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety

    From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

    Workers at the last mine standing in the region, West Elk, met President Donald Trump’s executive order with cautious optimism. But travel to the west central Colorado region, it’s clear that the area isn’t banking on coal coming back to what it used to be. And the decline is clear. It’s meant a few empty storefronts in Paonia, a drop in Delta County School District students, and fewer fully ensured health care patients in the region.

    And there’s another challenge: In contrast to big coal producers such as Wyoming and the Appalachia region back East, federal grant dollars to ease the transition away from coal aren’t flowing as freely into Colorado. That’s according to Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who represents Delta County.

    “I think what’s unique about Colorado is it’s not thought of as coal country, Donovan said. “Those federal programs have focused on the more traditional West Virginia, Appalachia communities that we think of as coal country. So I think in Colorado it’s going to fall more on the shoulders of the state.”

    […]

    With planning help from state economic developers, Delta County Economic Development Inc. drew up its future plans in 2016. Here’s a look at the key items.

    • Solar: With the help of training school Solar Energy International, the North Fork Valley could see more rooftop solar. Delta County’s high poverty rate has translated into low demand for rooftop panels. With Solarize Delta County, SEI plans to make the energy more accessible and affordable by spurring more local investment. SEI has also launched efforts to retrain coal workers, although SEI Director of Operations Kris Sutton said the effort has been slow going in the short term: “If coal miners here want to pursue solar jobs. They’re going to have to probably move,” Sutton said, referring to the fact that most solar installation jobs are along the Front Range.
    • A specialty food manufacturing incubator: Delta County School District, which runs the region’s technical college, purchased a 22,000 square foot building that will eventually house classrooms, a commercial kitchen and a warehouse. Entrepreneurs could get classes, marketing assistance and a space that helps them create food products out of regional produce from the valley, including organic foods, Ventrello said. “It’s value added. Rather than just selling tomatoes, can you make a high end salsa?”
    • Organic food: In Hotchkiss, Big B’s Juices has evolved from from a shed that sold organic fruit to an outfit that sells juice and a hard cider line across the country. Ventrello says the incubator could help existing businesses like Big B’s expand their business, and hire more folks including out-of-work miners. Shawn Larson, who moved to the area from Utah in 2010 to help start Big B’s hard cider line says every extra job helps. ““We sell products nationwide. You know, we have that reach, but also affect our community,” he said.
    • Recreation and tourism: In its economic blueprint, the county’s economic development group plans to beef up its Gunnison Riverfront property with more access points for water sports, trails and picnic areas. It also calls for a hotel and conference center to make the city more of a destination for travelers.
    • Broadband: Delta-Montrose Electric Association will spend up to $125 million on high-speed broadband internet to the region in the coming years, which includes the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss. Paonia was one of the first towns to be fully wired with the broadband. Mayor Charles Stewart said it will be one key to recruiting new businesses and drawing more residents to the region. “People like those amenities. When you can say to folks, ‘Yes, you can live in the North Fork and still have high-speed internet access,’ that’s a positive,” said Stewart.
    • Other renewables: It’s not just individual homeowners that could see more solar in Delta County. The region’s electricity provider, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, is also seeking to add more solar and hydroelectric power to its grid. Meantime, regional economic development leaders like Tom Huerkamp are eyeing the region’s shuttered mines and seeing another economic opportunity: generating power from methane that naturally vents from shuttered underground mines. “If we tap the old coal mines, this community has the ability in the next maybe five to 10 years to disconnect from the grid,” Huerkamp said.

    Record 2016 Renewable Energy Levels Came 23% Cheaper Than 2015 — Clean Technica #ActOnClimate

    From Clean Technica (Joshua S. Hill):

    Specifically, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), global investment in renewable energy for 2016 came in at $241.6 billion, 23% less than in 2015, but nevertheless helped to deploy 138.5 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity (excluding large-hydro), a figure up 8% from the 127.5 GW installed in 2015. The new report UNEP report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017, found that the total investment level was the lowest it has been since 2013, due in large part to falling costs, rather than a drop in demand.

    “Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less,” said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment. “This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all.”

    U.S. coal use falls 9 percent in 2016 #ActOnClimate

    One of the generating units at the power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo., is being shut down this year to reduce emissions that are causing regional haze. 2009 photo/Allen Best

    From Climate Central (Bobby Magill):

    …it was little surprise when the federal government reported this week that U.S. coal use fell 9 percent in 2016, even as Americans consumed more energy overall. The U.S. used more natural gas and renewables last year than ever before, while oil use and even nuclear power were on the rise, too…

    Coal use fell last year for the third year in a row — after slight increases in 2012 and 2013 — and has been steadily declining in the U.S. since it peaked a decade ago, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data…

    Part of the problem for coal, however, is that Americans aren’t as hungry for electricity as they used to be, thanks in part to more energy efficient buildings and appliances…

    Cheap prices along with federal mercury emissions regulations became big incentives for electric companies to build natural gas power plants and shut down their coal-fired power plants, or run them using natural gas instead of coal.

    The fallacy of Trump’s vow to restore the coal economy — The Mountain Town News

    One of the generating units at the power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo., is being shut down this year to reduce emissions that are causing regional haze. 2009 photo/Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Trump vows to bring back coal, but coal has lost favor for many reasons

    With coal miners at his side, President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order that seeks to undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

    In coal towns, there was rejoicing. The plan requires a gradual switching of power sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32 percent by 2030. Unless carbon capture and storage technology advances rapidly, this puts coal at a great disadvantage.

    Coal plants were already closing in droves. They’ve been losing out to cheaper natural gas, which has fewer greenhouse gas emissions and can be dispatched in a matter of minutes, unlike coal plants, which take about a day to crank up. This makes natural gas a better fit with renewables, whose prices have tumbled dramatically in the last five years.

    But coal plants in the Rocky Mountains have also been closing because of their dirty environmental footprint, not even considering greenhouse gas emissions. The sulfur dioxide and other emissions contribute heavily to regional haze, also called smog.

    For example, PacifiCorp announced it would close one of its generating units at its power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo., located south of Jackson Hole. The plant provides power for Park City. The reason: the electricity wasn’t needed, because of improved energy efficiency, and to upgrade the plants to reduce pollutants was too expensive.

    In northwest Colorado, Tri-State Generation and Transmission and other electrical providers have agreed to shut down a 427-megawatt power plant at Craig by 2025. This is 42 miles west of Steamboat Springs. Again, the problem is regional haze and other environmental pollutants.

    The Four Corners power plant, in northwestern New Mexico. Photo/Allen Best

    In New Mexico, it’s the same story. There, two units of the San Juan Generating Station are to be shut down by the end of this year, notes the Durango (Colo.) Herald.

    The Herald says Public Service Co. of New Mexico is deciding whether the remaining units at the San Juan complex will operate beyond 2022.

    The New York Times today makes the same point in this story by Coral Davenport: “Coal is on the Way Out at Electric Utilities, No Matter What Trump Says.”

    At the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association conference, former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter pointed to action at state and local levels, along with that of private companies, all aiming to clean up energy sources. Among those pushing are a variety of Republican governors in an organization called the Conservative Energy Network.

    “What this makes me believe is that no matter what happens at the federal level for the time being, there are opportunities,” said Ritter.

    Wyoming didn’t join that coalition, even if Gov. Matt Mead continues to prod his state into making changes.

    Coal trains await loading in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. Photo/Allen Best

    Jonathan Schechter, writing in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, while pondering his own mortality, wants Wyoming to similarly quit denying that the day for the end of coal is drawing nigh. Wyoming has been living high as the go-to source for low-sulfur coal since the 1980s. You can still see mile-long coal trains grinding their way through Denver’s booming LoDo section on their way to plants as distant as Texas, Mississippi and even, for a time, Florida.

    Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants closed between 2006 and 2016, and most remaining plants are on the verge of functional obsolescence. In 20 years, Schechter observes, nearly 90 percent of the plants will be 40 years old or older. As these plants close down – likely to be replaced by natural gas and renewables – “so too will the market for Wyoming’s coal, and with it the economic benefits coal has bestowed upon our state.”

    Wyoming has no income tax. That simple fact, as much as the amazing sight of the Teton Range, may explain why Jackson Hole rivals Aspen for billionaires per capita. “When the day comes that income is taxed, Jackson Hole will start to become home to a much different demographic,” Schechter concludes.

    As for Trump’s vow to bring back coal, the logical question in the face of all this evidence is, will the president also promise to bring back cheap gas, like the 18.9 cents per gallon of his youth?

    The economics of solar energy #ActOnClimate @ClimateReality

    Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

    From EcoWatch (Emma Gilchrist):

    The solar industry was responsible for creating one out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. last year and the country’s fastest-growing occupation is wind turbine technician—so no matter one’s feelings on climate change, the renewable energy train has left the station, according to a new report.

    “It’s at the point of great return. It’s irreversible. There is no stopping this train,” said Merran Smith, author of Tracking the Energy Revolution 2017 by Clean Energy Canada. “Even Donald Trump can’t kill it.”

    More than 260,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, more than double the 2010 figures. Meanwhile, the top five wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans…

    “Global trends show some renewable energy technologies have reached ‘grid parity’ with fossil fuels—thanks to falling technology costs—meaning no financial support is required to make their cost equal to, or cheaper than, their fossil fuel competitors,” reads the report.

    The European Union led the pack, with 86 percent of its new electricity capacity coming from renewable sources in 2016.

    In 2016, China added 30 GW of new solar capacity—or roughly enough solar panels to cover three soccer fields every hour, according to the report.

    By 2015, renewable electricity employment is estimated to have grown to 6.7 million direct and indirect jobs globally, with solar PV the leading technology, employing nearly 2.8 million people. It is estimated that in 2015 Canada was home to 10,500 jobs in wind and 8,100 in solar PV.

    The cost of renewables is expected to continue to come down, leading to further job creation. Between 2015 and 2025, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects generation costs for onshore wind to fall another 26 percent, while offshore wind generation costs fall 35 percent and utility-scale solar PV costs drop 57 percent.

    I will speaking about the climate crisis in Thornton on Monday. Click here for the details.