Ritter pushes for more clean energy from utilities

DENVER — The state’s biggest utility companies are years ahead in meeting Colorado’s 20 percent standard for renewable energy, so Gov. Bill Ritter wants them to think bigger.

That’s why he’s pushing to increase that standard for the amount of energy they generate from renewable sources to 30 percent by 2020.

“This is a game-changer,” the Democratic governor said in a rare appearance as a witness before a legislative committee Thursday. “This has the potential to transform the future for Colorado and America.”

House Bill 1001, which the House Transportation & Energy Committee delayed voting on so it can take more testimony today, is designed to help the state not only lessen its reliance on coal-burning power plants, but put more people to work in a new industry at a time when many are losing jobs in the old industry, Ritter said.

But Republicans on the panel said that while job creation is a fine goal, they questioned the governor about jobs surrounding the state’s other clean-energy industry: natural gas.

“In the summer of 2008, natural gas was at $13 an mcf (1,000 cubic feet), and by the end of the summer of 2009 there was a point it was at $2,” Ritter said. “That’s something way beyond our control. There’s no industry that’s not going to see an impact on the level of activity because of that.”

The governor said that partly is why he has been pushing renewable energy as a way to help make up for those lost jobs.

But coal advocates said it shouldn’t come at the expense of others in the fossil-fuel industry. Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, told the committee that increasing the standard would jeopardize thousands of mining jobs, particularly on the Western Slope.

“This allows for virtually unprecedented government intervention in the fuel choices that are made, rather than leaving those to the marketplace and individual customer preferences,” he said. “Coal mining is an important industry in terms of jobs. We should not be favoring one industry over another.”


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