Hickenlooper names wind energy executive as new head of GEO

The administration of governor-elect John Hickenlooper Friday named Denver-based wind energy executive Tanuj “TJ” Deora the new director of the Governor’s Energy Office, created by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007 to facilitate the state’s burgeoning “New Energy Economy.”

Deora currently heads up “state and regional policy advocacy efforts for Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy’s government affairs team, focusing on promoting investment-friendly environments for renewable energy,” according to a release from Hickenlooper’s transition team.

Replacing former state Rep. Tom Plant as head of the GEO, Deora has a diverse background in renewable and alternative energy development. Before joining Horizon, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company’s energy practice in Washington, D.C., working for utility and industrial clients. And before that, the former DOW chemical engineer also worked for Calpine Corp. analyzing the performance of natural gas-fired power plants.

Colorado is currently involved in a comprehensive and contentious effort to transition aging coal-fired power plants to natural gas or other sources of cleaner-burning energy as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets a schedule for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The selection of Deora is viewed positively by environmental groups supportive of that transition and other efforts to increase efficiency and renewable energy production around the state.

“TJ Deora is a strong and exciting pick to lead this critical office,” said Environment Colorado Program Director Pam Kiely. “With the clean energy economy taking off across the state, Deora’s experience in the wind industry makes him a smart choice to take the reins.”

Deora got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas and his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

“Over the past several years Colorado has developed a robust clean-tech industry, ranging from (research and development) to manufacturing and deployment of energy production facilities,” Deora said in a release. “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our state in expanding its leadership role and leveraging our strong human and natural resources to bring more jobs and investment here to the Rockies.”

Hickenlooper is a former geologist on Colorado’s Western Slope who was laid off during a traditional energy bust in the 1980s. He went on to become a successful Denver restaurateur and the mayor of Denver. During the 2010 governor’s race, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, gave every indication he would continue the push toward renewables and efficiency begun in earnest by Ritter, while at the same time offering an olive branch to traditional extractive energy industries. His selection of Deora indicates he’s at least serious about the renewable energy part of the equation.

“Colorado is clearly a global leader when it comes to wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy,” Hickenlooper said in a release. “We are excited to have TJ Deora join our team as we continue to find ways for the energy industry to grow, create jobs and help boost our state’s economy.”

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