Monday, May 30, 2011

Colorado Governor's Energy Office Faces Funding Drought

I'm a bit dismayed at the possibility of life without the Colorado Governor's Energy Office (GEO). Those folks have worked incredibly hard over the years to increase awareness of both energy efficiency and renewable energy in the state of Colorado. But awareness aside the GEO has helped nurture budding markets (think Vestas wind turbines, Abound thin-film solar PV, solar thermal, energy audits) as well as boosting old ones (think appliances, home improvement, HVAC, windows). This article in the Boulder County Business Report gives the harsh realities (albeit between the lines) of myopic government influenced by a strong fossil fuel lobby working to keep us wedded to old technologies. It's been the Colorado GEO that has helped the people of Colorado look towards a sustainable, efficient, and renewable future. If you still believe that Colorado can be the clean tech thought leader and renewable technology incubator of the U.S. then you definitely need to call/write your state lawmakers and let them know that it is important that the GEO be fully funded. Let's keep this delicious renewable momentum going.

Farm-to-table Revolution in Western Colorado

Great article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on the partnerships that can be developed between local food growers and institutions like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. Programs like these aren't the cheapest, and often can't compete on price and convenience with the large corporate food producers, but I believe that focusing your attention on more locally produced food will be beneficial to your community in the long run. Why? Because processed foods (think of the stuff that comes in a can or box) is loaded with high doses of sugar and salt (which are major factors in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and which cause a drain on the local health care system). Processed food can come from 1,000s of miles away using large amounts of fossil fuels. Even the food processing itself is fuel and resource intensive. How many resources does it take to drive a crate full of fresh tomatoes or corn or strawberries or spinach 100 miles down the road? Not much. Getting our tomatoes from California and our grapefruits from Mexico is not sustainable. Growing our own or purchasing our food locally from our neighbors is sustainable. This article is a reminder to see what each of us can do in our own communities to buy locally.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Xcel Energy Says It’s Close to Meeting Colorado Target for Renewable Energy

This headline from the Denver Business Journal is bittersweet. On one hand, kudos to Xcel for meeting Colorado's renewable portfolio standard (basically 30% renewables by 2020) approximately eight years early. It's an incredible feat and Xcel should be commended for working diligently and creatively to meet that goal. On the other hand, the momentum towards accomplishing this goal will inevitably begin to decline. This suggests that utility incentives for homeowners to install solar PV or solar thermal may begin to dwindle. Funding for wind turbine farms on the Eastern plains may begin to dwindle. And perhaps even incentives for energy efficiency measures may dwindle. Of course the renewable energy market has to begin standing on its own, however the great state of Colorado can't just take it easy and feel good about having already accomplished 30% by 2020.

Even though there may not be any political appetite in this "age of austerity" for increasing the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS), I think that since Xcel was able to acquire the RPS goal that quickly, it's time for Xcel, Governor Hickenlooper, the state legislature, and environmental groups to work towards increasing the state RPS to oh let's say 40% by 2025 for investor owned utilities and 20% for co-ops and municipal owned. I think that goal would set the pace for the country and demonstrate that Colorado is the renewable energy powerhouse it was always meant to be. Once you've accomplished a goal, isn't it time to set a new one? Just sayin'.

If anything, I sure do miss ex-Governor Ritter's ability to develop those unique coalitions of strange bedfellows right about now. Alas, let's see if Governor Hickelooper can govern as effectively. What say you kind readers?

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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