Colorado News Connection

February 5, 2018Available files: mp3 wav jpg

DOE Budget Cuts Could Blunt Gains for Renewables

Eric Galatas

DENVER - Colorado is one of a number of states making significant progress in ramping up solar and wind energy. But clean-power advocates are warning that momentum and job growth could slow with the Trump administration's plans to cut renewable energy programs.

In a draft budget obtained by the Washington Post, funding for the Department of Energy's renewable programs is cut by 72 percent. To Amelia Myers, energy advocate at the group Conservation Colorado, that would be taking the nation backwards.

"And the future is renewable energy. We've got a ton of wind coming online," Myers said. "Any federal cuts to research and development are going to be very detrimental to our leadership, as a state and as a nation."

An analysis by S&P Global projected new wind and solar capacity will top natural gas this year. And Myers noted Colorado's 600-megawatt Rush Creek Wind Farm in Elbert County is the largest wind project under construction in the U.S.

The Trump administration has continued to make the case that deeper investments in coal would help the U.S. maintain energy dominance, and would create jobs.

Myers said she disagrees, observing that in Colorado there are just over 1,000 jobs in the coal industry, compared to 66,000 clean-energy jobs. She added the proposed cuts would essentially reverse the nation's longtime commitment to invest in innovation and efficiency, and she argued the move could cost the country its global standing in the energy sector.

"Dominating that space is something that America has been a leader in," she said. "If we have these cuts in renewable energy research and development, that will mean that other countries like China will be taking over the energy dominance."

Myers said she believes the market has signaled that future investments will be in renewables, not fossil fuels. As a part of its Colorado Energy Plan, Xcel Energy announced last year it wants to close two coal-fired plants in Pueblo and replace their capacity with more affordable wind and solar.