5 Reasons for Optimism About Our Energy Future
As the world swelters through the hottest summer on record, Solar CitiSuns sometimes find it difficult to see reasons for hope that we will find a way out of the worsening climate crisis. Emissions of planet-warming fossil fuels continue to increase and climate anxiety affects many of us.
That’s why we wanted this month to point out some reasons for optimism, especially in our home state of Colorado. Progress in the transition to clean energy is happening every day as the hard-working folks in the solar, wind, energy storage, clean tech and efficiency industries can attest. Here are five reasons for hope. None of this progress would have happened without years of work by clean energy advocates whom we call Solar CitiSuns, pushing utilities, regulators and lawmakers toward solutions. Much more work is needed of course in all these areas so let the progress inspire your advocacy!
1. Lots More Solar Energy is Powering Colorado
This summer, two large utility-scale solar projects have started producing electricity, both in Pueblo County. The 250 MW Thunder Wolf project will supply enough electricity to power 42,500 homes annually and includes energy storage. The 250 MW Neptune solar project includes 100 MW of battery storage. Both largely resulted from hard-fought policy wins in 2018. And wind and solar developers have bid thousands more MW to Xcel Energy at very low prices for the future. We need to encourage the utility to embrace this clean energy instead of continuing to rely on methane gas.
2. More Energy Storage is Coming
In addition to battery storage being developed in Xcel Energy projects, other utilities are starting to deploy energy storage. For example, United Power, a large electric cooperative, and Ameresco are joining forces to install 78.3 MW of battery capacity on the coop’s distribution system so it can use more renewable power during periods of high demand. Colorado Springs Utilities and Black Hills Energy are also eyeing big storage projects. And battery manufacturing will also have a Colorado home when Amprius Technologies begins manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in Brighton in 2025.
3. Transmission Projects are underway
Getting renewable power from where the resources are best- often in rural areas- to where most people live is a challenge around the country. But progress is underway in Colorado after long delays. The $1.7 billion Power Pathway transmission project will bring 560 miles of high-power transmission lines from eastern Colorado to Front Range residents. Construction also recently started on the TransWest Express which will carry electricity from a 3,000 MW Wyoming wind farm to Southern California. Meanwhile, federal regulators approved new rules to make it easier to connect renewable projects to the grid.
4. Building Codes are Getting Greener
Thanks to a 2022 law, Colorado is making sure that new and remodeled buildings are more efficient and ready for renewables. Model building codes have been developed to make new construction ready for more electric uses, from EV-charging to efficient appliances powered by solar panels on the roof. Under the law, any city that updates a building code or adopts a new one now must meet or exceed the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code and new state requirements.
5. State Leaders are Committed to Renewables
Longtime renewable energy advocates can’t remember a time when the leadership of Colorado -both the executive and legislature- and regulators were working harder on the clean energy transition. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which is appointed by the governor, has new staff leadership and members more willing to challenge utilities than many of their predecessors. And dozens of clean energy laws have been passed in the last five years. None of this progress would have happened without your help.