Here in Boulder, Colorado the mood is impatient when it comes to the future of energy in the United States. The pace at the national level is not quick enough to deliver the clean-energy future that many Coloradans view as crucial to the future viability of our economy and environment. As a result, the city has taken matters into its own hands, attempting to create a locally owned municipal utility. The future of this effort is still unclear—two questions on the issue will be on the November ballot, and utility Xcel is mounting a well-funded campaign against them—but this sort of frontier spirit epitomizes Colorado’s progressive approach to shifting away from fossil fuel dependency. The state sits atop a wealth of cleantech resources, which appear to be just as vital as the natural resources the state possesses as well.
There will be no single ground-breaking technology that will change the energy sector or provide a panacea for the economy. Colorado is nurturing a diverse cleantech sector that covers everything from biofuels to smart grid, and includes young companies like Power Tagging and Eetrex along with more seasoned veterans like Vestas. In the mix is a supportive body of lobbyists, industry associations, and legislators who believe in an integrated energy future in which cleantech works along-side conventional technologies.
The Ft. Collins-Boulder-Denver corridor along the Front Range is home to renowned centers of innovation, test-beds for commercialization, and well-established technology and service providers for the power industry, not to mention the University of Colorado and its Leeds School of Business, which runs several programs around sustainable business and technology. The traditional oil and gas industry remains strong, but growth in cleantech areas is even more remarkable. Ft. Collins has developed a Colorado Clean Energy Cluster that is pooling local expertise across the cleantech sector to recruit more research and businesses to the area.
Through collaborative efforts, Northern Colorado was able to recruit wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, which put their North American headquarters in the city of Windsor, Colorado. The Cluster continues to pursue international connections for the state’s local products and services. The activities in Northern Colorado are staged to address some of the looming uncertainty in the cleantech sector, domestically and internationally. In the West, we understand the issues of natural resources, high-tech research, venture capital, and commercialization, intimately.
Energy efficiency is another critical piece of the puzzle. The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office has dedicated significant resources to this end. Much of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money that came to Colorado focused on efforts like weatherization in rural and low-income areas. This well-rounded approach to the cleantech sector has been nurtured by legislators who are keen to see all of the state’s resources developed in equal measure. Policymakers from around the world travel to Colorado to consult with our international trade offices as well as business leaders. Northern Colorado is also home to public-sector heavyweights including the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
With all the changes taking place in the cleantech sector, here in the United States and abroad, the technologies and business models coming out of Colorado continue to offer solutions for issues around the world. And as the sector continues to forge an integrated approach to the future of the electricity sector, expect to see more good things out of Colorado. It’s no accident that Pike Research’s world headquarters can be found in the center of it all.
Article by Brittany Gibson, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.