Outgoing Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter tells Susan Mc Ginnis about his energy policies and what he's accomplished in his term in office.
Ritter says he has strived to create an ecosystem that's about clean energy. He wants to make the state a hub for clean energy and set a template for the entire country. That includes energy efficiency, making government greener, building more renewable energy facilities and luring renewable energy companies to his state to attract jobs. He says that strategy can not only create jobs but cut imports of foreign energy.
Ritter says he has signed 57 energy-related bills in his four years in office, ranging from an aggressive renewable energy standard to net metering, allowing residents who generate their own renewable energy to sell it back to utilities. He says shortly after he signed a bill doubling the amount of renewable energy that utilities were required to use from 10 percent to 20 percent, wind turbine manufacturer Vestas decided to locate in Colorado. Ritter eventually signed a bill increasing the RES to 30 percent for investor owned utilities. He says the remarkable thing is that the utilities agreed to it.
Ritter says all the energy bills he signed were instrumental in Colorado's becoming the nation's fourth-leading state for clean energy jobs. He says the state's research facilities and tax incentives for renewable companies helped convince a German solar company that had never previously manufactured abroad to open its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Colorado. Ritter says Colorado is the first state in the country with a community college that offers green energy certificates. He says a number of private colleges have moved to his state and dedicated themselves to educating students for a green energy future.
Of the 57 energy bills he's signed, Ritter says he's most proud of the renewable energy standard and a law that encourages utilities to switch older coal-burning power plants to natural gas. He says that bill was not just about carbon dioxide emissions, but about other emissions as well, including mercury.
Ritter believes Colorado can be a template for the nation because of its vast resources of both traditional fossil fuels and sources of renewable energy, and because of its research and development centers. He believes he has worked to encourage all types of energy development in Colorado, picking winners and losers only on the basis of emissions.
Ritter says his policies have changed the conversation about energy, and created jobs doing it. He says a clean energy economy doesn't necessarily have to be a zero-sum game. He says that while there have been some job losses in the coal-mining industry, it's just one industry, and he believes those job losses are offset by jobs that have been created in other areas, like wind, solar, research and development. Ritter says the public health consequences from continuing to produce coal-based electricity are very significant compared to running a windmill or a solar plant.
Ritter believes energy policy needs to be integrated with climate policy. He says by having a renewable energy standard, the state government has attracted manufacturing, created jobs and raised the quality of life for families across the state. He believes that growth will last because renewable energy is a 21st Century industry. He believes he has left Colorado with a lot to build upon and made the case that energy security can be created through promoting domestic sources of energy.
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