The Sierra Club is working throughout Colorado to promote energy generation
and efficiency that minimizes harmful impacts on public health and the
environment, while improving the state's economy. Our goals are for the
Colorado to meet 20% of its electricity needs through clean, renewable
sources and to become 30% more efficient in energy consumption by 2020.
Achieving a Sustainable Energy Future for a Richer Life.
Sustainable Energy: Energy, without waste, for endless
generations to come as long as the sun shines and the winds blow, without
diminishing the earth’s capacity to support life.
Richer Life: Healthy individuals, families and communities.
Supporting personal and economic growth.
What's the problem with Colorado's electricity?
Everyone depends on electricity. We need it to power our homes and offices, run our factories, and support our tourist industry. But the energy industry's impact on our health, air, water, land, and wallet is enormous. Today virtually all of our electricity is generated from coal and natural gas.
Coal provides over 80% of Colorado's electricity. Unfortunately, burning coal (even clean coal with new technologies) emits more air pollutants than other energy options, contributing to serious health problems including asthma, irritation of the lungs, bronchitis, pneumonia, decreased resistance to respiratory infections, and early death. Coal also consumes and contaminates large amounts of Colorado's limited water.
(Union of Concerned Scientists)
Natural gas provides about 15% of the state's electricity and its share is expected to rapidly increase to meet the demands of growth. Combustion of natural gas produces fewer harmful emissions than coal, but is not without its drawbacks. Gas price volatility is notorious, and as demand for natural gas increases, prices will rise. According to the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, natural gas production in the United States has already reached its peak, and is now on the decline.
Power from hydroelectric dams provides only 3% of Colorado's electricity. This power is cheap and helps sustain rural economies. However, there are no sites left in the state where large hydroelectric dams can be built without serious environmental damage.
Energy Needs are Growing
Colorado's electricity demand is growing at 3% every year. Although Colorado has enough electricity to meet current needs, energy supplies must increase to meet demand from population growth, an expanding economy, and increasing consumption per person.
If Colorado continues to rely on fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), air quality and other environmental problems will worsen and consumers will pay billions of extra dollars as fuel prices rise.
Colorado Can be a Leader in a Clean, Sustainable Energy Future
Colorado is blessed with abundant wind, sun, geothermal and biomass resources waiting to be tapped. By increasing use of renewable energy and reducing waste of energy, we can make our energy system more secure and reliable; stabilize prices; protect our environment and water supply; and build the economy.
Wind power is the state's fastest growing source of electricity and is becoming cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. Existing wind farms in Colorado already produce 61 megawatts of power and the state has the potential to produce 1,000 times more power from wind. Wind turbines do not interfere with agricultural operations. Indeed, fees for siting turbines are very often a welcome source of additional income for farmers and ranchers.
Photovoltaics (solar panels) turn sunlight into electricity using technology that is dependable, quiet and has a wide range of applications. Although it is still relatively expensive, the cost of photovoltaics is falling as the technology matures and production increases. Photovoltaics can provide electricity directly at the site of generation and in remote locations and for applications where it is too expensive to extend power lines.
Energy Savings Potential
Energy efficiency means getting the most from every energy unit by using proven state-of-the-art technologies to provide daily needs. Efficiency is the quickest, cheapest, cleanest way to reduce energy use and pollution.
In a recent report, Colorado was ranked as one of the top three states in total energy savings potential. The report found that Colorado could cut its electricity demand by over 65% while reducing carbon dioxide and other air pollutants by updating building efficiency codes. Homeowners would realize $145 in energy savings the first year. (The Alliance to Save Energy, Opportunity Lost, 1998)
Sierra Club's Colorado Clean Energy Campaign
Sierra Club supports --
- Government policies requiring utility companies to diversify their energy portfolios, and energy purchasers to buy electricity from renewable sources,
- State and local ordinances to improve the energy efficiency of buildings,
- Elimination of barriers that prevent adoption of new energy technologies,
- Making energy efficiency and use of renewable energy as easy and commonplace as recycling.