Gov. Ritter in D.C. frames state’s ‘New Energy Economy’ as national model

Gov. Bill Ritter today touted Colorado’s “New Energy Economy” as the keynote speaker at the “Good Jobs-Green Jobs” conference in Washington, D.C. – the first of three stops on a whirlwind one-day tour of the nation’s capital.

Ritter also was scheduled to present his New Energy Economy blueprint to the board of trustees of the Environmental Defense Fund and make a presentation to the Center for American Progress called “Meeting the Energy and Climate Challenge: A View from the States.”

Sponsored by the BlueGreen Alliance, the Good Jobs-Green Jobs conference was also attended by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Here’s the full text of Ritter’s speech:

Bill Ritter

Thank you to the BlueGreen Alliance, all the conference sponsors, and everyone here today for leading America to what we in Colorado call a New Energy Economy. What a privilege to hear from Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Solis this morning. Two amazing women leading the fight for strong policies to strengthen working families.

This is the first of 3 appearances I’m making in DC today to share Colorado’s success story at creating thousands of green jobs, diversifying our energy portfolio, and protecting the environment. We want to share lessons learned and provide clear steps other states, Congress and the Administration can take to make America a global clean-jobs leader.

When I was running for Governor, I knew Colorado wasn’t achieving its full economic and job-creation potential around renewable, sustainable energy. So we coined the phrase New Energy Economy and made it a pillar of the campaign. And then we made it a pillar of my administration by creating the Governor’s Energy Office, and tying it to our Economic Development Office.

As a result, we have transformed Colorado’s economy.

Our successes now provide a roadmap to a future that is more economically secure, environmentally secure and energy secure. A few key components:

• Research and development – both public and private;
• Business development and job creation;
• Workforce development and education;
• Strong partnerships with businesses, utilities, others;
• Forward-thinking, visionary public policy; I’ve signed more than 40 clean-energy bills into law.

One of those first bills, which I signed within my first 100 days in office, doubled the state’s renewable energy mandate for major utilities to 20% by 2020. Earlier this year, we increased it again, to 30% by 2020. We now have the second-highest renewable energy standard in the country. And we added two new elements to foster good, green jobs for working families.

First, we added a solar certification program so that both consumers and workers can benefit from standards that support well-trained, responsible solar installers.

Second, we added a best-value contracting provision. This ensures that bids for future projects built by Colorado’s biggest utility – Xcel Energy – will take into consideration training, wages, benefits and other factors.

Another key part of Colorado’s New Energy Economy is natural gas. We spent almost two years updating our oil and gas drilling regulations, many of which are now a national model. We established a balanced set of rules that encourage responsible energy development while also protecting workers, air, water, wildlife and public health.

That was really a foundation we had to lay in order to take the next step in establishing a broader New Energy Economy. With that foundation in place, two weeks ago I signed the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. This new law will ensure the early retirement and replacement of old and inefficient coal plants – the first law of its kind in the country.

A total of 900 megawatts of coal-fired generation in the Denver area will be retired and replaced with natural gas over the next few years.

This bill is a national model for retiring coal-fired power plants. And we did it with strong bi-partisan support, and we talked about it in a way people can relate to: cleaner air from cleaner energy; stable energy prices; and more jobs.

Jobs – that’s been the biggest win for Colorado out of the New Energy Economy. Even in the depths of the recession, Colorado has been able to add thousands of new clean-energy jobs and attract hundreds of new clean-tech and clean-energy companies:

• We now have the fourth-highest concentration of clean-energy workers in the country.
• We attracted the third-highest amount of clean-tech venture capital funding over the past two years.
• We are home to more than 1,500 clean-energy companies, an 18 percent increase since 2004.
• Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems has made Colorado its North American manufacturing hub – good jobs for 2,500 Coloradans.
• SMA Solar is opening its first manufacturing plant outside of Germany in Colorado this summer – 700 good jobs for Coloradans.
• And last month we opened the EcoTech Institute, the nation’s first private, two-year college aimed specifically at educating and training the clean-energy workforce of tomorrow.

What does it all mean? In Colorado, the New Energy Economy has kept the recession at bay. Our unemployment rate has stayed well below the national average. We’ve been able to demonstrate that Colorado has not just a pro-business environment, but also a pro-worker environment and a pro-environment environment.

Families, businesses and institutions are realizing that a green economy means good jobs, a cleaner environment and more efficient use of energy resources. It means a sustainable future.

But we need to move quicker. Instead of talking about decades down the road, we need to be talking year. A telling T- shirt I saw on a college student recently said “How old will you be in 2050?” We have a responsibility to implement a course correction now for our nation, for our children and for our future.

Organizations like the BlueGreen Alliance and those of you here today are working shoulder-to-shoulder and leading that transformation even as we speak.

Thank you.

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