Fort Collins – With the severe drought plaguing Colorado prompting more Coloradans to call for action to tackle global warming and the rise in extreme weather, Environment Colorado released an Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report this morning: this recent report shows that Colorado’s current power generation from wind energy displaces as much global warming pollution as taking 525,000 cars off the road per year. Colorado has also suffered from severe water shortages this year, and the Environment Colorado report shows that wind power saves enough water to meet the needs of 23,300 Coloradans. Nationwide, the water saved annually by wind power would cover Fort Collins’ water needs three times over.
Environment Colorado was joined by Doug Odell of Odell Brewing, Michael Baute of Spring Kite Farm, and Pamela Shaddock of Senator Udall’s office in releasing the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report, Wind Power for a Cleaner America: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution, and Saving Water, and in touting wind energy’s environmental benefits to date, as well as future benefits if wind power continues to grow. With a particular focus on the impact of drought on Colorado industries, the speakers urged Congress to extend critical federal incentives for wind power—the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and the offshore wind investment tax credit (ITC)—before they expire at the end of the year.
“Wind power is already replacing the dirty and dangerous energy sources of the past and creating a cleaner, healthier future for Coloradans,” said Margaret McCall of Environment Colorado. “We can continue on this path of cutting global warming pollution and saving water if Congress acts now to extend critical wind incentives. Our message to Congress is clear: Don’t throw wind power off the fiscal cliff. Water-starved Coloradans can’t afford it.”
Wind energy now provides 9.2% of Colorado’s electricity, making Colorado sixth in the country for its percentage of power generation from wind. If wind development continues at a pace comparable to that of recent years through 2016, Colorado would reduce global warming pollution by as much as taking an additional 457,000 cars off the road, and would save enough water to meet the needs of an additional 20,300 Coloradans.
In 2012 in particular, Coloradans can’t afford to waste water: apart from the droughts of 2002 and 1934, 2012 is the worst drought year in Colorado history; in the area around Fort Collins, the drought is even more severe than it was 10 years ago. Farmers are being hit hard: this year, Michael Baute’s irrigation ditch ran dry, and he was forced to pay top dollar for municipal water. “In the local food business there is a fine line between paying your bills and closing shop,” said Baute.
Doug Odell built on this message, emphasizing that a consistent supply of water is critical to the brewing process. Odell stated that his brewery invests in wind energy “because the water conservation aspect is so important to our company and our people.”
Colorado’s successful development of wind energy results largely from the Colorado Renewable Portfolio Standard—requiring utilities to provide 30% of their power from renewable or recycled energy by 2020— and the federal renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC). Wind power is at a critical time in its growth—now powering nearly 13 million homes across the country and on its way to being cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuels. But the two key federal wind power incentives—the production tax credit and the offshore wind investment tax credit—expire at the end of the year. Without these credits, many planned wind farms will not be built, leaving health and environmental benefits for Coloradans on the table.
"Extending the wind Production Tax Credit is one of the most straightforward ways we can support clean, Made-in-America energy and American manufacturing jobs. We need the PTC to help create more good-paying jobs here at home, including jobs for our veterans who are transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce, " Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said. "The wind PTC is also a commonsense way to support clean energy and to reduce our carbon emissions. It is critical that Congress extend the PTC ASAP and support clean, renewable wind energy."
Despite the benefits of wind energy and widespread public support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are vigorously opposing the PTC and ITC.
“As our nation is facing financial crisis, we must invest wisely in a future with less pollution, fewer extreme weather events, and smart use of our water resources,” said Margaret of Environment Colorado. “Time is running out. We thank Senators Udall and Bennet for putting Coloradans first and continuing to support clean, renewable wind power, and we urge all members of Congress, including Congressman Gardner, to stand up and make sure that these tax credits are renewed before the end of the year. Our clean air, our water, and our children’s future depend on it.”