Text Size

Site Search

Public Lands

HW Winter2018 FINAL2cover

Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the connection between Colorado's forests, watersheds, and forest fires:

IMG 20180402 101801web

Water Education Colorado

Legislature and Governor's Office Lead the Way Into Colorado's New Energy Economy

Morey Wolfson doesn't head Gov. Bill Ritter's Energy Office. That job belongs to Tom Plant. But Wolfson is yet another example of the governor's penchant for hiring savvy veterans with significant Colorado water and energy experience.
Wolfson spent 15 years, principally during Roy Romer's governorship, as the executive assistant to commissioners at the Public Utilities Commission. He then spent nearly five years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He's an expert in renewables — solar and wind power, and energy efficiency.

Wolfson led the successful 2004 campaign to have the people of Colorado enact Amendment 37, setting a target of 10 percent renewable-generated electrical production by PUC-regulated utilities by the year 2015.

The state's principal investor-owned utility is already ahead of that target.

‘Xcel Energy is expected to meet the 10 percent renewable goal by the end of this year, about seven years ahead of schedule,’ says Wolfson. ‘In April the General Assembly doubled the renewable energy goal.’

Wolfson credits the new breed of legislators who campaigned on bringing more clean and efficient energy to Colorado. Doubling Amendment 37 was the result of a broad bi-partisan effort. The new target is 20 percent renewable-generated electrical production in the portfolio mix of PUC-regulated utilities by 2020.

‘Not only that! Rural electric co-operatives and municipal utilities,’ says Wolfson, ‘which are largely exempt from PUC regulation, will be included in the renewable portfolio standard. Under House Bill 1281 they will share in the New Energy Economy by including 10 percent renewable production in their electrical generation mix by 2020.’

That includes all the rural co-ops served by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Tri-State is a wholesale electric power supplier serving 44 distribution cooperatives in four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Nebraska.

‘We're well on the path in Colorado,’ Wolfson says, ‘for renewable power production, 96 percent wind and 4 percent solar is likely where we will be. However, there is room for other renewables — such as biomass and geothermal — should they prove to be cost-effective. Creating a new pathway for energy development in Colorado ties in well with the classic water-conscious dilemma for a water-short state.’

One thing you really notice about being in Wolfson's office: He doesn't automatically turn the lights on. That's consistent with his passion for energy savings as a fundamental element of Colorado's new energy economy.
The state's population is growing, and with it the demand for electricity. Supplying an ever-increasing portion of power through renewables is the Governor's Energy Office's goal. Wolfson says that ‘the beauty of wind turbines is that they don't consume water, and their fuel source is free and non-polluting. Commercial and residential efficiency measures don't consume water either and these 'demand side' measures are generally far less expensive than building new generation to meet the forecasted growth in demand.

‘The utilities project a load growth of about 2 percent load per year. Demand side management can help flatten electrical usage as the population grows. Regrettably, Colorado's utilities have been relatively slow to adopt energy efficiency measures compared to most states. However, there is good news. That's going to change!’
Part of Wolfson's job is to shape the office's participation in PUC proceedings.

‘Investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy do integrated resource planning, where they project out their electric needs and how they intend to meet that need by a combination of new generation and conservation measures,’ Wolfson says. ‘The legislature has helped ensure that new integrated resource plans include incentives to both utilities and customers to embrace energy efficiency.

‘Utilities gain by allowing the companies to now earn sound returns for offering energy efficiency programs.

Customers gain by availing themselves of steep discounts in the cost of high performance equipment and lighting for both new and existing buildings. We'll be intervening in PUC proceedings to add technical help and the constant reminder that the legislature and the governor eagerly anticipate positive change.‘

Wolfson plainly relishes what the governor is doing. The governor was beaming—no pun intended—when he shoveled the dirt to launch the construction of an 8 megawatt solar power plant near Alamosa. Quite frankly, we see a big part of our job at the energy office is to continuously help create opportunities for more renewable energy.’

Behind Wolfson's desk hangs a poster of one of Claude Monet's water lily paintings. He's also into maps. ‘As a result of legislative direction, Colorado will be mapping the state for hydroelectric, biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar electrical production potential. The detailed maps will provide another impetus to help attract more renewable energy businesses and jobs to the state.’

Wolfson points to changes in the natural gas industry as a driver that is spurring the state's lead in the renewables field.

‘Until a few years ago, natural gas was relatively inexpensive and building gas-fired electric generation is less expensive than coal,’ he says. ‘But now that gas prices are in a whole new higher price band, and since wells are depleting faster than ever, changes are occurring. Higher gas prices pass through to cause higher power bills. Higher power bills cause customers to rethink their projections about the future, causing behavioral changes.

‘For example, builders, buyers, and lessees of commercial buildings are recognizing that it is more likely than not that high natural gas prices will be with us for a very long time. Architects, planners, and builders are buying into the need to achieve higher standards and adoption of more stringent building and energy codes.

‘We're seeing more evidence of home builders and home owners becoming more eager to incorporate the newest energy efficiency devices and measures into their homes.’

When asked about oil shale, which he hastens to add is outside of his responsibilities, Wolfson hit a cautious note. He says that research and development is appropriate, and a commercial scale enterprise is widely considered to be many years into the future. ‘Regrettably, it takes a tremendous amount of energy and water to extract oil from shale.’

When asked about clean coal, he says, ‘In the long run, coal technologies may significantly reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere compared to traditional coal-fired plants, and for that reason, research and development ought to be encouraged. However, we are at the very early stages of clean coal technology development and the likelihood of high costs are a concern.’

Wolfson is also an accomplished bluegrass, jazz, and rock-n'-roll musician. Asked what lyric he might suggest for what he and his colleagues at the Governor's Energy Office are doing, he says, ‘Don't you let nobody turn you around.’

Social Media

Stay in touch and connect through:

FB-fLogo-Blue-broadcast-2 Twitter Logo White On Blue instagram    

Sign Up for our e-newsletter

learn more3learn more

 And view the latest issue of Headwaters Pulse, Water Education Colorado's monthly e-newsletter, here.


Click the icons below for videos about climate change, ranching and more; or audio from Water Education Colorado's Connecting the Drops radio series.

filmicon   headphonesicon

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218