Also, voters supported seven of the eight vulnerable Democrats in the statehouse who won re-election by strutting their support for a robust renewable electricity standard and votes for legislation aimed at attracting clean technologies.
“Overall, I’d say it has taken four or five years to totally change the conversation on energy in Colorado,” Hoffman said. “It’s now to the point where residents don’t see legislation as a tax hike but as new jobs for the state.”
Indeed, the “National Solar Jobs Census 2010” compiled by the non-profit and non-lobbying Solar Foundation found that Colorado ranked sixth in the United States with an estimated 5,300 solar jobs.
Part of that growth was spawned by utilities conforming to an aggressive renewable energy portfolio standard first passed by a healthy margin as a ballot initiative in 2004. The standard has been bumped up twice since then, and now requires 30 percent of power to come from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020.
“For Coloradans it is not a Democratic or a Republican thing,” Hoffman said. “Overall, people buy into clean energy as the way forward.”
Despite Ritter’s monumental energy endeavors, green groups still have a lengthy wish list. At the very least, they want to offer more incentives for energy-efficient buildings; encourage the real estate business to adopt a green rating system for homebuyers; and beef up mining regulations as the search for uranium expands and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas becomes more prevalent.
“With a tight state budget, we know there will be attempts to scale back,” Hoffman said. “We have to keep Colorado at the forefront of what the entire country is doing with energy policy.”
Picking Up the Pieces in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, as in Colorado, state agencies have relied heavily on copious infusions of federal stimulus dollars to jump-start their clean technology revolutions. The Keystone State could be slammed with a double whammy with more conservative leadership and a tapering off of grants and loans from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Pennsylvania’s green groups are holding their breath on the future of a trio of crucial programs: a comprehensive plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from multiple sources that includes boosting public transportation and strengthening the existing renewable electricity standard; the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program that provides $600 million in rebates and other incentives for clean energy; and an energy efficiency standard that requires power companies to reduce their electricity use 4 percent by 2013.
“It’s totally right to say it’s going to be a difficult fight for clean energy growth,” emphasized Adam Garber, field director with PennEnvironment, an affiliate of Environment America. “These are the three big pieces. If they die out, we lose all of that progress. Investors don’t want to come back to a state that can’t make a constant push forward.”
The comprehensive plan to tackle climate change that emerged from Gov. Ed Rendell’s advisory committee is a year-old non-binding proposal, Garber noted, adding that it has yet to be enacted into law.
John Hanger, secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, is a gung-ho devotee of Rendell’s vision.
He regularly brags about how the manufacturing state has invested more than a $1 billion in renewable energy projects, employed 350,000 workers in green jobs and attracted hundreds of companies that build the batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and parts for wind turbines and solar panels.
Hanger was elated when the “National Solar Jobs Census 2010” compiled by the Solar Foundation found that Pennsylvania ranked second behind only California with an estimated 6,700 solar jobs.
The Energy Department also selected the Philadelphia Naval Yard as one of three nationwide energy research hubs. As such, it will receive $122 million in federal funding over five years.
Though governor-elect Corbett was mostly mum on environmental issues during the campaign, Garber and his colleagues suspect the Republican might be inclined to claim that greening the state is too expensive during these fiscally restrained times.
But they are not letting the election results deter them.
“Yes, we lost a lot of environmental champions who did yeoman’s work on that front,” Garber said, adding that Pennsylvania still has its share of traditional Northeastern moderate Republicans. “But in urban areas, politicians are concerned about environmental issues because their constituents are.”
That citizen passion, he said, gives PennEnvironment leverage as it strategizes in these less-than-predictable months ahead.
“We need to re-engage with the public,” Garber said, adding that coalitions of veterans, national security experts and business entrepreneurs will be critical to advancing the state’s new economy because they grasp the links between energy independence and national security. “They know clean energy has already created a lot of jobs and it has the potential to create a lot more.”
He’s fully aware that this undertaking is no cakewalk.
“For us, strategically, there’ll be a lot more defense,” Garber concluded. “And that’s hard because you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a waiting game.”