Get Big Pivots

 

A press conference to highlight Colorado’s climate and energy bills But why did the governor now support carbon reduction goals for 2035-2045?

 

by Allen Best

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called a press conference on the west steps of the Capitol on March 8, and it’s still not entirely clear to me exactly the news that was being shared. It was mostly a mid-session pep rally built around the admittedly impressive lineup of legislation that seeks to allow Colorado to make good on its ambitious carbon reduction goals adopted in 2019.

But amid the remarks was a disclosure that remains a mystery to me. It’s about interim greenhouse gas reduction goals. I’ll get to that.

Polis opened the session talking about “an exciting path forward to further establish Colorado as a leader on clean energy, saving people money, cutting red tape, to accelerate the clean energy transition, making sure that  Colorado is the national leader on clean energy solutions.”

In his four-plus years as governor, Polis has consistently emphasized incentives. This was no exception. He talked about new $3,000 tax credits for high-efficiency heat pumps and had a couple from near the fire-ravaged fire that ripped through Louisville in December 2021 to testify about their effectiveness.

He pointed to tax credits for electric vehicles and e-bikes, and noted that Colorado has become fifth in the nation in sales of EVs.

He talked about geothermal, his pet project as chair of the Western Governors Association, and about his response and the response of legislators to the high heat bills of earlier this winter. And, of course, he talked again about “money-saving opportunities” from the new technology.

Then he shared the lectern with legislators who talked about some of their bills. They talked about innovation, about leadership, and about jobs—always there is mention of jobs.

This year is indeed shaping up to be another major year for legislative efforts to shape and guide the decarbonization effort in Colorado. The “package” issued by the governor’s office cited 13 bills, not including the agrivoltaics study bill.

I hear of at least a couple more bills of considerable significance that are still being shaped. This might not match the energetic push of the 2021 session, when I think it was 29 climate and energy bills that became laws, but it’s impressive.

But what caught my ears, despite my struggles to hear against the roar of traffic on Lincoln Avenue a few hundred feet away, was Polis saying he is on board with the interim greenhouse gas reduction targets in a Sen. Chris Hansen’s bill, SB-23-016, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measures.”

In this bill, Hansen and his co-sponsors propose to add new stair-steps to the state’s greenhouse reduction ambitions beyond the 50% target of 2030:

  • 65% by 2035
  • 80% by 2040
  • 90% by 2045.

Existing goals jump from 50% by 2030 to 90% by 2050. This revised goal-setting would up the latter to 100%.

This is just one section among many in the Hansen bill, a giant proposal that covers everything from electric-powered snowblowers to efforts to align investments by the Public Employees’ Retirement  Association, or PERA, with the state goals.

As reported by Colorado Newsline in January, the Polis administration opposed this provision of the bill at its first legislative committee hearing. Don’t get ahead of the technology, the committee members were told. Xcel said the same thing.

At the press conference last week, Polis cited the proposed interim goals in the Hansen bill, suggesting that he supports it.

State Sen. Chris Hanson is the sponsor of several bills that seek to accelerate Colordo’s energy transition, including SB23-016, which would establish interim goals for economy wide decarbonization between 2030 and 2050. Top, Gov. Jared Polis and his team now support the incremental targets after first opposing them.

And when Hansen got to the lectern, he said he believes his bill has a “clear path to get this to the governor’s desk.”

What caused the reversal? I reached out to the Colorado Energy Office, which delivered to me by e-mail a non-answer answer:

“The administration supports bold climate action and believes that changing statewide greenhouse gas targets should be a thoughtful process that incorporates data-driven solutions, while also ensuring the General Assembly provides the resources and regulations needed to achieve these targets in a way that saves people money. The clean energy and climate package proposal announced this week includes incentives and regulatory pathways that will be critical to achieving both deep emissions reductions in the interim between 2030 and 2050, and net-zero emissions by 2050. The ability to achieve these bold climate goals is dependent on having every tool available to meet the goals, including carbon capture and management, clean and green hydrogen, and other emerging technologies. The governor and his team will continue to follow these bills as they move through the process and look forward to reviewing the final bills.”

Hansen, during a grueling Friday session in the Senate as Republicans did their best to thwart gun-control legislation, promised to get back to me but did not. Incidentally, he is running for mayor of Denver, a full-time job itself. He’s a busy guy.

The mystery remains, some interior politics that I cannot explain. Why the reversal?

Why do these goals matter? I first heard Hansen argue their need at a fundraiser in September 2021. His bill in the 2022 session fell just short of crossing the finish line.

In December, when I interviewed him, he explained that having no goals against which to measure progress, it would be too easy to slacken the pace between 2030 and 2050.

Allen Best
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