Advanced energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of Colorado’s economy, and energy legislation before Congress could position Colorado as a national and global leader.
Solar and wind companies support a combined 15,000 jobs in Colorado, represent billions of dollars of investments and provide tens of millions of dollars in state and local taxes.
Nevertheless, a question that often comes up is, “What happens when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow?” That question has been answered thanks to the development of energy storage technology.
By storing the electricity that’s generated and saving until it’s needed, energy storage can aid in the expansion of renewables and play a key role in modernizing the grid.
Colorado is one of a few states with a strong footprint in both wind and solar energy. From 2005 to 2016, wind energy increased from 1.5% to 17.3% of the electricity generated in the state, according to the Colorado Energy Office. The state is also home to more than 400 companies involved in the solar energy supply chain.
A new law enacted this year calls on utilities to reduce emissions by 80% of 2005 levels by 2030, with a 100% clean energy target by 2050. Colorado needs energy storage to meet those goals.
Growth in energy storage will likely determine whether Colorado can keep that momentum and meet those standards. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has called storage the “holy grail” of energy, and it’s poised to become the country’s next big economic growth and jobs engine.
Our congressional delegation recognizes the benefits of energy storage for Colorado and is pursuing policies to help the industry expand. U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are both cosponsoring the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, which would expand the federal investment tax credit (ITC) to include all energy storage projects, not just those related to solar deployments.
This proposal is supported by Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress.
With this incentive in place, Able Grid and Ascend Analytics — two Boulder headquartered firms — could continue to expand, hire and grow. Able Grid could accelerate the deployment of its battery storage projects and increase its workforce by about 50% if the storage ITC passed in 2019. Ascend expects to hire an additional 10 employees with an ITC for storage.
Colorado is also home to Broomfield-headquartered RES (Renewable Energy Systems), the world’s largest independent renewable energy company.
The company is active in wind, solar, energy storage and transmission and distribution, with over 16 GW of renewable energy projects across the globe — enough to power several million homes.
With a global workforce of more than 2,000 people, RES remains committed to hiring and procuring goods and services locally. Most storage projects, during peak construction, generate more than 200 local jobs.
Thanks to federal support, solar and wind have become important, mature parts of the American energy economy. With the ITC for storage, Colorado could further cement its spot as a leader among states and other countries in new energy technologies.
All three of our companies could build on our successes thus far and jumpstart new growth in jobs, clean energy and economic growth, with Colorado serving as the launch point.
Tom Duckett is Executive Vice President of Emerging Business for RES (Renewable Energy Systems). Barnaby Olson is the Chief Executive Officer of Able Grid Energy Solutions. Gary Dorris, Ph.D., is the CEO & Co-founder of Ascend Analytics.
This column was originally published for The Colorado Sun. The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization that covers people, places and issues of statewide interest. To sign up for free newsletters, subscribe or learn more, visit ColoradoSun.com.