Federal Budget, State Bills to Impact Future of Renewable Energy in Colorado

Aerial view of the National Renewable Energy (NREL), South Table Mesa campus (STM). (Photo credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

DENVER (CN) – The president will release his proposed 2019 budget early next week, and many expect him to pick up where he left off last year – with hefty blows to renewable energy funding.

The Washington Post reportedly glanced at a draft that offers the U.S. Department of Energy 28 percent of what it was allocated last year.

Of the nation’s $4 trillion budget, the Office of Energy Efficiency under the U.S. Department of Energy is currently spending $2 billion. The proposed cuts would reduce the office’s budget to $575 million.

Trump made a similar proposition last year targeting the Offices of Science, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, while increasing funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Congress later challenged the proposal.

Among programs at risk is the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Last year, the lab received $458 million in funding, a portion of which came from the federal government. More than 2,000 employees, researchers, interns, professionals and subcontractors contribute to NREL’s 13 research programs. NREL also encompasses the National Bioenergy Center, the National Center for Photovoltaics, and the National Wind Technology Center.

Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, has long considered energy a top issue for his state and has helped secure funding for the research facility.

“The United States is entering a new phase of energy history, and the nation is at the cusp of energy independence as we continue to produce our own secure supply of energy. Meeting our country’s energy demands will include an all-of-the-above strategy,” Gardner said in a statement, referring to the party’s slogan supporting the use of both fossil fuel and renewable energy sources.

“The state is on the cutting edge of energy production and research, due in large part to the NREL,” he continued. “I support developing and utilizing American energy of all kinds. This includes the use of traditional power like coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas, along with the use of renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric power, and geothermal.”

According to the Colorado Energy Office, renewable energy makes up more than 17 percent of the state’s power, most of which comes from wind. Colorado is a top producer of both solar energy and coal power. Fifty-four percent of Colorado’s electricity comes from coal and 20 percent from natural gas, the state’s primary heating source for homes.

At the state level, several initiatives have been proposed to provide direction to the Colorado Energy Office.

One bill that aimed to push Colorado toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 was killed in the state Senate Thursday.

Senator Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, attributed the bill’s demise to funding.

“We don’t have a wind severance tax,” he said in a phone interview. “We don’t have a solar energy severance tax. There’s absolutely no revenue coming in from those renewables to backfill out as fossil fuels have done for 20 years in Colorado.”

At the start of the legislative session, Scott introduced another bill that prioritized nuclear and hydroelectric power while eliminating economic incentives aimed at promoting the expansion of wind and solar power. The senator says most of the programs he proposed cutting are either underused or obsolete.

“I want to make sure we are just as competitive as the other states that produce energy, and to investors and companies that would want to move to Colorado for energy services. In Colorado, we’ve done a very, very good job of getting a good mix of all-of-the-above,” Scott said.

In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump alluded to just one energy source: “beautiful, clean coal.”

The president indicated early on in his term that he would prioritize reducing federal involvement in environmental issues. In contrast to Trump’s attempt to erase lines for efficient and renewable energy from the government budget, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center estimates two-thirds of Americans would prioritize finding alternative energy sources over expanding fossil fuel sources.

NREL did not respond to requests for comment made by email or voicemail.

 

%d bloggers like this: