Ritter: Next governor must embrace new energy economy

DENVER– Governor Ritter told the Colorado Independent Friday that the state’s new-energy economy must continue to grow whether a Republican or a Democrat is elected governor this year. Ritter made the statement after signing into law the final bills (Video Here) of his four-year term today, capping his legacy under the banner of the new energy economy.

The bills signed Friday will provide grants to community colleges for green-workforce job training, access to low-interest loans to improve home energy efficiency, and one that will assemble a panel to develop SMART grid technology to integrate multiple sources of energy and distribute those reliably.

“I would hope that [a Republican] would understand the wisdom of [these efforts] because the environmental issues are significant. If a Republican doesn’t see that as a mainstay, they could also look to the energy diversity and understand that that is a national security issue,” Ritter said. “We built this based on energy security and national security. The third part of it has to do with economic development and job creation. If a Republican really cares about job creation, this is the space to be in.”

Ritter made his comments at a signing party during an event hosted by Environment Colorado.

Earlier, Ritter harkened back to his State of the State address and said he had made good on his promise to create a new energy economy. He pointed to 1,500 clean-energy companies operating in the state, 32 of which his administration were directly involved in recruiting. The Governor’s office reported that those 32 companies brought 6,500 jobs to the state.

Ritter noted the importance of bills such as HB-1001 sponsored by Max Tyler, that would bolster the new energy business by raising the renewable energy standard to 30 percent in the state. He thanked legislators, activists and stake holders like Xcel Energy for being an active partner in his initiatives.

“Since taking office in 2007, we have charged forward with a bold and ambitious agenda to make Colorado a national leader in the New Energy Economy,” Gov. Ritter said. “In less than four years, we have passed nearly 60 New Energy Economy bills that are sowing the seeds for a vibrant and sustainable future. We are creating jobs, attracting companies, reducing energy consumption and advancing high-tech projects that will continue to bear fruit for decades to come.

“This year, we passed the landmark, first-in-the-country Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, which will reduce climate-warming emissions from coal and create a greater role for cleaner, home-grown natural gas. We increased the renewable energy requirement to 30 percent by 2020, and we passed a host of measures that will help clean-tech businesses thrive.”

Democratic lawmakers agreed that the advances were significant.

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said that Colorado had made great strides in tough times. “What we are doing here today is just the punctuation mark on a long list of achievements that had really turned Colorado around.”

Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, said the advances will keep the sate at the forefront of the energy industry. “This state is a national and international leader,” he said. “This is about 5,000 companies 15,000 jobs, and 15 years from now our goal is to triple that.”

Miklosi told the Colorado Independent that his bill “The New Energy Jobs Creation ACT,” creates a clean-energy financing district that can “solve the access to capitol issue for homeowners to purchase solar panels or weatherization, geothermal or wind.”

He said the law will allow 55,000 homeowners to receive $25,000 to weatherize or install clean energy technologies. The homeowner and any one who subsequently bought the home would pay that loan off at 5 percent over 20 years as part of their property taxes. Citizens would have to vote counties into the district, and individuals would have to request their property be part of the district before being able take advantage of the financing.

Miklosi said it would create at least 3,000 jobs, increase property values up to 10 percent and provide momentum for continuing clean-energy efforts.

Levy said her bill, HB 1098, provided more transparency in rural electric cooperatives association governance and their elections.

“House bill 1098 will open up the election process for the bard of directors and will allow REA members to provide input to the board as they make important decisions about their energy sources.”

Ritter said that Colorado now has the fourth-highest concentration of clean energy workers in the nation. He said he has worked to tighten the bonds between research universities in the state and the Federal Renewable Energy Laboratory, while also fostering private and public partnerships.

“Colorado and the United States can not cede its role to other places. Not to China. Not to Europe. We must seize the initiative and continue building for a sustainable future, a strong economy and a clean environment,” he said.

[photo via DemocraticUnderground]

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