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Colorado governor had made Heat Beneath Our Feet his signature initiative during his year as chair of the Western Governors’ Assocation 


Geothermal comes in primarily two kinds. There’s heat for warming buildings, which Colorado already has, if in limited areas, most notably Colorado Mesa University.

But can it also get reliable generation of electricity?

In a meeting with a delegation from Iceland, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis suggested that geothermal wells could provide at least part of the answer as Colorado stretches to decarbonize its electricity with near-zero carbon emissions by 2040. He said that Colorado hopes to get to 96% or 97% carbon-free electricity by 2040.

When he ran for governor in 2018, said Polis, he adopted a platform of 100% renewables by 2040. “At the time, people thought that was very hard and that we would never achieve it. Our plans show we will certainly be in the high 90s percentile by 2040, hopefully in excess of 96% or 97%.”

The last coal plant will close no later than the end of 2030. (At the meeting on June 20 in Denver, Polis said 2029). And Colorado hopes to mostly squeeze natural gas out of its system.

Colorado has a lot of wind and solar, he explained, and he called them the “lowest-cost workhorses of the clean energy economy. We can probably get to 80-85%, maybe with some storage as high as 90% with solar and wind.”

What gets it the rest of the way to 365 days of no or low carbon?

Hydro is about 3% of Colorado’s grid; Polis said it might grow to 4%. “We don’t have a lot of water here,” he noted. In Iceland, hydro provides about 40%.

“The biggest opportunity that exists today is around geothermal. And that’s why we are so excited about how this can be 4 or 6 or 8% of our energy by 2040. Currently, it’s 0%.”

More on what was said at this meeting at the McNichols Building in Denver in the next issue of Big Pivots.

Allen Best
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