New Report: Lighting the Way
Denver – Today, Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, showing strong solar growth across the nation including an 18% increase in Colorado in 2013. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
Colorado’s progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in Colorado grew from 270 MW to 331 MW.
“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in Colorado and across the country,” said Charlotte Bromley, field organizer with Environment Colorado. “Thanks to the commitment of Colorado’s leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet our carbon emission reduction standards set by the Clean Power Plan.”
Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
“We are so lucky to have so many fantastic days of the year where we have sun, it would be irresponsible if we didn’t take advantage of it,” said Representative Linda Newell, Colorado Senator for District 26.
And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases, making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 3,600 in Colorado.
“The solar industry provides more jobs than both the coal industry and the steel industry; that rate has grown over 50 percent since 2010 and is at a current rate of about 20 percent job growth per year which is ten times the national average” said Carly Rixham, Executive Director of the American Solar Energy Society.
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
“Colorado’s solar industry has grown up around favorable state policies so that we now have more than 230 companies providing 3,600 jobs in communities across our state,” said Rebecca Cantwell, Executive Director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association who joined Environment Colorado in the release of the report. “Since Colorado voters became the first in the nation to adopt a renewable energy standard, the solar industry has contributed about $1.5 billion in economic benefits. But this leadership position is threatened. Xcel Energy's attack on the critical solar policy of net metering must be stopped for our state to remain a solar leader.”
“Moving towards a positive environment is also moving towards a positive economy, and it’s really important to remember that solar jobs in particular are good, clean jobs with livable wages, and those are the kind of jobs we need to see more of in Colorado” said Newell.
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states, like Colorado, helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
• 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
• 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
• All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
• 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
Here in Colorado solar progress is attributed to a number of programs, including Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires investor-owned energy utilities to produce 30% renewable energy by 2020.
“Colorado officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar and taking action to make it a reality,” said Bromley. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of Colorado’s plan to reduce pollution from power plants.”