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Ritter: Colorado renewable energy means jobs

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter says the growth in renewable energy and energy efficiency that his administration has promoted is paying off economically, having generated about 90,000 jobs in Colorado.

Those are the preliminary figures from a new state study that says those industries have generated about 40,000 jobs directly and 50,000 indirectly, Ritter announced Tuesday during a renewable energy conference.

The report is expected to be completed around the end of November. The American Solar Energy Society, which did a similar study for the state of Ohio, is preparing the report.

Ritter also announced more than $9 million in grants to 14 communities for energy projects across Colorado

“We’re quickly becoming a national and international hub for renewable energy,” Ritter said.

Jefferson County west of Denver alone has about 500 renewable energy companies, Ritter said. The giant wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems employs hundreds of people in the state and expects to eventually employ 2,400 at its plants in northern Colorado and Pueblo.

Last week, a group of public agencies and companies announced plans to build a research center in Aurora they say will be one of the largest promoting commercial solar energy technologies. The partners say the 74-acre Solar Technology Acceleration Center will be one of the world’s largest solar test and evaluation facilities.

Ritter noted that roughly 850 people registered for the daylong conference at the Colorado Convention Center. Last year’s debut energy conference drew about 500.

When he ran for governor in 2006, Ritter talked about meshing an expanded renewable energy industry with the state’s conventional energy industry into a “new energy economy.”

A state-funded study released last year said the oil and gas industry generated about 71,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion to the state economy in 2005. Colorado’s energy boom, fueled by record natural gas development, is credited with helping blunt the effects of the national economic downtown in the state.

Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said several companies in his trade association also have interests in renewable energy technologies. Studies looking at how many jobs different energy sectors produce reflect one fact, Dempsey said: “This is an energy-producing state.”

“I think the governor has said he’s trying to promote all forms of energy,” Dempsey said. “I think that’s appropriate.”

Ritter said the strides Colorado has made in becoming an energy leader is reason for “hope and optimism” amid the national fiscal economic meltdown. In response to a question from the audience, he conceded the national credit crunch could affect some of the renewable energy projects.

“It depends on how soon the market stabilizes,” Ritter said.

He made a pitch for Amendment 58, on the Nov. 4 ballot, when asked about Colorado’s financial incentives for renewable energy compared to other states. The measure would raise an estimated $320 million a year by eliminating a property tax credit for the oil and gas industry.

Most of the revenue would go to college scholarships, but 10 percent, or about $30 million, would go to clean energy projects.

Colorado lawmakers have approved policies to encourage renewable energy, Ritter said, but the state can offer only limited financial incentives because of budget and revenue constraints.

The oil and gas industry has argued that Amendment 58 will raise taxes on companies, discouraging economic growth and raising people’s energy bills.

DENVER ” Communities across Colorado will get state grants worth a total of more than $9 million for 14 different projects promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Gov. Bill Ritter announced the recipients Tuesday during a renewable energy conference Tuesday. The grants are part of the state’s New Energy Communities Initiative, aimed at promoting economic development, energy efficiency, conservation and reduction of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

Tom Plant, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said the program rewards communities for innovative ideas that save energy and create jobs.

Ritter said the 14 projects, chosen from 32 applications, cover areas across the state with a total population of 1.8 million people.

Recipients and grant totals are:

– Avon, $1.5 million.

– Boulder County, $500,000.

– Cortez, $500,000.

– Fort Collins, $778,000.

– Garfield County, $1.6 million.

– Grand Junction, $1 million.

– Greeley, $700,000.

– La Plata County, $1.2 million.

– Longmont, $500,000.

– Loveland, $39,250.

– Pikes Peak Region, $200,000.

– Pueblo, $1 million.

– Routt County, $87,000.

– Yuma County, $400,000.


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