Advancing the Clean Economy: The View from Colorado

July 11, 2011

As the governor of Colorado from 2007 to 2011, Bill Ritter led the nation in arguing for the economic development value of “decarbonizing” the U.S. energy system. Moreover, he showed how to advance such development through catalytic, market-smart public policies.

At our clean economy event this week, we’ll get to hear him expound his strategies and goals.

During his tenure as governor, Ritter issued Colorado’s first Climate Action Plan in 2007, calling for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. In 2010, he successfully pushed for a 30 percent renewable portfolio standard in Colorado, the second highest in the nation.

More broadly, Ritter, a Democrat, signed dozens of pieces of clean energy legislation that turned Colorado into a national model for generating new clean energy technologies and start-ups, attracting firms, and creating jobs by providing a supportive policy framework to boost demand, ensure the availability of finance and drive innovation.

Ritter also tirelessly marketed Colorado as a place where clean energy businesses can grow. Denmark-based Vestas Wind has made Colorado its North American manufacturing hub.  SMA Solar is opening its first manufacturing plant outside of Germany in Colorado. Others, including Siemens, SMA Technologies, Abound Solar, Ascent Solar, and Solix Biofuels, are also growing and adding jobs in Colorado.

This combination of economic development fervor and steady policy has contributed to Colorado’s high ranking among states for the share of its total employment comprised by “cleantech” workers as measured by our forthcoming “Sizing the Clean Economy” report and database, debuting Wednesday.

Today Ritter is bringing the same commitment to growing the national and Colorado clean economy that he showed as governor to his activities as the director of a newly established Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. The center has the mandate to shape national energy policy and advance economic initiatives related to clean and renewable energy. With the present stalemate at the federal level on moving a clean energy agenda, Ritter in his new role will be working with a small group of states as well as municipalities to build the clean economy in America region by region and state by state. We’ll be looking forward to hearing his reflections on the way forward in a closing dialogue at our Wednesday event, to be webcast here.