Denver, Colorado — Colorado’s ambitious roadmap to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2050, as championed by Governor Jared Polis, has sparked robust debate following a report by the Denver-based Independence Institute. The study suggests a potential cost to taxpayers surpassing $318 billion by 2050.
This report from the Independence Institute, which champions policies for “personal and economic freedom,” has prompted diverse reactions. Jake Fogleman, an Energy Policy Analyst from the Institute, forecasts that residents could be burdened with monthly electric bills escalating to $628 by 2040. “We initiated this research to understand the costs of a 100% renewable energy transition, especially given the lack of historical precedents globally,” Fogleman remarked.
Governor Polis and other advocates argue that the switch from fossil energy isn’t just eco-friendly but also economically viable in the long run. They believe that as the renewable energy sector grows, its economies of scale will render it cheaper than traditional energy sources. This transition, they assert, also paves the way for a healthier environment and offers significant savings to Coloradans over time.
The governor’s plan isn’t just limited to energy production; it’s comprehensive. It proposes a complete shift to electric cars by 2050, necessitating all new car sales to be electric by 2040. Additionally, there’s an emphasis on a “large-scale shift” to electric heat pumps powered by zero-carbon electricity for space and water heating in buildings.
However, critics express concerns about the pace of this transition. They argue that it may not only be financially straining for residents and businesses but also advocate for a balanced energy mix that combines both fossil-fired and renewable energy for reliability and sustainability.
Further adding to the debate, the state’s initial steps towards a greener Colorado, which began in 2004 with its first renewable energy portfolio standard, have led to a more than 70% increase in all-sector electricity prices. As of 2022, Colorado’s electricity prices are the highest in the Mountain West region.
Conor Cahill, the governor’s spokesperson, emphasizes that a rigorous cost-benefit analysis has always been integral to policy development. “Such policies should not only be beneficial for the environment but also economically viable,” Cahill said.
Interestingly, the governor’s office cites statistics suggesting that in the long run, renewable energy sources like wind and solar will be substantially cheaper than coal, leading to reductions in electricity bills.
Nevertheless, the report also highlights that a significant portion of the funding for these green initiatives will likely come from federal subsidies and grants. Fogleman argues that this doesn’t necessarily decrease costs but rather redistributes them across a more extensive tax base.
Another intriguing point raised by Fogleman is the global impact of Colorado’s efforts. He contends that even if Colorado successfully achieves its green objectives, the reduction in global warming would be minimal. He stresses that emissions from countries like China could easily overshadow the state’s endeavors.
Beyond the debate on costs and benefits, Fogleman also advocates for an open-minded approach in energy policy. He suggests not limiting the focus solely to wind, solar, and batteries but also exploring other clean energy sources, like nuclear energy.
In the midst of these discussions, the Colorado Energy Office has projected that the benefits of implementing the building performance standards alone could amount to nearly $11 billion by 2050. These standards are expected to drastically reduce energy consumption and, subsequently, lower bills.
As this green debate rages on, the governor’s office has yet to provide an exhaustive cost estimate for the entire transition. Meanwhile, the Independence Institute’s findings are bound to shape discussions about the feasibility and wisdom of a 100% renewable electricity future for Colorado.