The Top Three Ways Colorado Leads in Sustainability and Green Initiatives5 min read
In recent years, Colorado has made many strides in the realm of eco-friendly sustainable energy alternatives. In 2019, Colorado was ranked 12th by USA Today in its list of the most eco-friendly states in the nation, citing the state’s position as the 6th lowest in daily pollution averages and the 17th highest in energy generation from renewable energy sources. This ranking is set to increase as the state continues to push forward with additional energy measures that will both incentivize green energy and energy efficiency while improving accessibility making it easier for low-income individuals and families to benefit as well.
Energy Tax Credits
With the original credit having expired in 2017, measures have now been taken to re-instate this tax credit that allows homeowners to deduct a maximum of $500 on taxes if energy improvements have been made to their homes. The Save Energy Act, introduced by Congressman Jason Crow allows for the credit to be taken by anyone who installs measures such as energy-efficient doors, windows, insulation, roofing, or HVAC systems. This incentive makes these improvements even more appealing and attainable to homeowners, allowing them to save during tax season and overall on their energy bills.
For instance, nearly 30% of heat is lost through inefficient windows and another 35% can be lost through poor insulation, this can force a home’s HVAC system to work harder to compensate for the loss, rasing energy bills and costing homeowners thousands each year. The Save Energy Act aims to make mitigating these losses an attainable goal for thousands of Coloradans while rewarding them for doing their part to help the state become more eco-friendly and efficient.
In 2015, before this credit was last expired, more than $1.6 billion in credit was claimed by taxpayers who made energy improvements to their homes. This original law was estimated to have garnered over $1 billion in economic revenue while expanding the clean energy industry and paving the way for the now 30,000 workers the state has today in energy efficiency fields. This time around, Congressman Crow aims to reduce all household energy costs by $13 billion by 2050, and if the past results are anything to go by, this goal is more than attainable.
Energy Assistance and Weatherizing
Energy Outreach, an organization that advocates for affordable energy, reported in 2019 that they received over 150,000 calls from people in need of help with their energy bills. This problem is something they have been working to resolve, rallying for more affordable options and assistance for individuals and families who are struggling with meeting their energy needs. One option that aims to boost accessibility and affordability is Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy, also known as the CARE program. Offering weatherization to low-income homes in rural areas, this program was first launched in 2015 with help from utilities and private donors.
The application for CARE notes that some households may be eligible for energy-efficient refrigerators, LEDs, insulation, furnace replacement, air sealing, and additional features to help them prevent energy loss and boost efficiency. Automatic weatherization assistance is also offered by the Colorado Energy Office, allowing households to receive a variety of assistance options for those with income up to $40,840.
It’s estimated that with more efficient appliances, better insulation, and weatherization, carbon pollution could be cut by up to 550 million tons by 2050. Programs like CARE help ensure that these improvements are more accessible and able to give low-income families a chance to benefit from energy efficiency. Steps like this benefit everyone as a whole and are what makes Colorado a leader in sustainability and green energy.
Recycling Carbon Dioxide
The fermentation process that comes with beer brewing naturally produces carbon dioxide. While some brewers use this to pressurize lines and carbonate beer within their facilities, many brewers end up venting the excess carbon dioxide during fermentation and purchasing outside carbon dioxide for carbonation. Likewise, marijuana growers utilize carbon dioxide from outside sources to help produce larger yields in smaller time spans. Since this compound is essential for plant growth, it is usually shipped from powerplants to aid in the growing process. To help these industries cut back on carbon dioxide emissions, a pilot program is being introduced to help these businesses share their emissions and reduce the amount of excess released into the atmosphere.
Co-launched by the Colorado Energy Office and the Department of Public Health and Environment, the goal of the Carbon Dioxide Pilot Project is to capture the carbon dioxide emitted during fermentation and utilize the excess for marijuana cultivation. The goal is to not only cut back on the overall excess of carbon dioxide released by these industries but also to cut back on the emissions caused by the transport of this compound which can sometimes come from across the state. Gov. Jared Polis believes that this project will be an essential step in further cutting back on emissions and improving the air quality in the state.
In addition to this, another pilot program launched by the Colorado Energy Office aims to partner local electric utilities that serve selected cannabis cultivators with cost-effective energy management opportunities and no-cost energy use assessments to allow for a better understanding of energy use drivers. In total, 15 cannabis cultivators and five utility companies will participate in this pilot program, while cultivators in rural areas will receive additional resources to help them develop long-term plans with utility providers. Governor Polis, in particular, has placed a large emphasis on the importance of hemp in the state, and during his State of the State address in early January he again doubled down on “keeping Colorado the number one state for industrial hemp”, with this program being just one more step towards maintaining that goal.
In the United States as a whole, jobs in the solar sector have been surging with nearly 209,000 solar workers in the nation. While changes like this are essential for making all states more sustainable and ecological, for now, Colorado remains one of the leaders in this endeavor. Between the efforts to make energy-efficiency more incentivized, providing accessibility to low-income households, and introducing carbon dioxide recycling options for two of Colorado’s largest industries, other states would do well to follow suit to ensure that the nation as a whole can increase efficiency and make green energy a viable option for everyone.