Higher renewable energy standard will create jobs
DENVER – Raising the state’s standards for electricity produced by renewable energy will create thousands of new jobs and increase Colorado’s gross domestic product by nearly $2 billion, Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday.Ritter cited a study by the Environment Colorado predicting that the state would see 4,100 new jobs, $570 million more in wages and $1.9 billion more in gross domestic product if it doubled the minimum amount of electricity its utilities generate from renewable energy – the goal of a bill now before the Legislature.The bill, which would require utilities to generate 20 percent of their electric power from renewables by 2020, would also save 18 billion gallons of water that would otherwise be used to cool coal- and gas-fueled turbines, the environmental coalition study said.”We have only just begun to tap the potential of a new energy economy,” Ritter said.Lee Swenson, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said the study shows farmers and ranchers can diversify and make money at a time when they’re struggling economically.”It’s jobs in rural Colorado,” he said.Renewable energy is generally touted as a boon for rural areas that could host large wind farms or solar-electric arrays, which often require extensive land.Accurately predicting the economic effect of renewable energy is difficult, said Gary Horvath, a researcher at the Leeds School of Business in Denver. But he said it would undoubtedly have a major impact on Colorado, creating high-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced to China or India and that will benefit everyone in the state.He said while 4,100 new positions may sound small compared with the current statewide total of 2.3 million jobs, it would be comparable to bringing a major new business like IBM to Colorado that will spawn other new industries for years to come.”These are going to be high-paying jobs. They’re going to be Colorado jobs. The real value is going to be in the long term, in the spinoffs, and those aren’t reflected in those figures,” he said.Two years ago, Colorado voters approved Amendment 37, requiring utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2015. House Bill 1281 would double that minimum by 2020.
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