10 Questions | Governor Bill Ritter
by Mary Branham
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter was named “America's Greenest Governor”
by Greenopia, an online directory promoting “green living.” Ritter believes
energy efficiency and use of renewable energy is not only the right thing to do,
it also saves states money.
1 What have been your major accomplishments leading to your designation as “America’s Greenest Governor”?
“In my first 100 days of office, I signed legislation to double Colorado’s renewable energy standard, and early in 2010 I signed another law that increased it yet again. By 2020, 30 percent of our electricity will come from renewable sources—
the highest standard in the Rocky Mountain West and among the highest nationally. Colorado’s leadership is creating a template for other states and the entire nation. We’re demonstrating how renewables can create thousands of jobs, increase energy independence, and protect the environment. It’s truly a win-win-win.”
2 In what ways do you personally try to set an example of being “green”?
“Growing up in a family of 12 children made me realize the value of what we had, no matter how little or how great. Reusing, reducing and recycling came naturally to our household. My family moved into the Governor’s Residence and we’ve made bold steps in making this historic mansion the first LEED Certified in the country. We added insulation, two solar PV systems and a geo-exchange system that provides heating and cooling. Our family also diligently recycles and we compost as well.”
3 How have or will you work to ensure Colorado achieves one of your top goals of becoming a leader in the New Energy Economy?
“My administration has many partners who continue to help make our New Energy Economy a success. Working with our world-class research laboratories and universities, as well as public and private entities, we’ve launched a solid clean energy industry in Colorado. We have leaders in public policy and research and development. We have wind, sun, natural gas and other natural resources. We have a highly skilled work force and a world-class work force development system. And we have entrepreneurs who wake up every day and say, ‘What can I make today? What can I create?’ All of this forms the fabric of Colorado’s New Energy Economy.”
4 How has Colorado grown the use of renewable energy?
“In 2004, Colorado voters approved a measure known as Amendment 37, requiring 10 percent of our power come from renewable energy sources by 2015. It was the first voter-approved Renewable Energy Standard in the country and it paved the way for our future success. … We believe this higher standard (30 percent by 2020) will create thousands of jobs and increase the number of solar rooftops in Colorado from 5,500 solar rooftops to more than 100,000 over the next decade. Since I’ve been in office, we’ve nearly quadrupled the wind power to Colorado’s grid and we are now third in solar PV capacity.”
5 In what areas can Colorado do better with regard to use of renewable energy?
“One of the greatest challenges facing all states and the country as a whole is transmission. We are working hard to devise new strategies that will allow us to move clean energy from the remote areas where it is generated to the more populated areas where it is needed.”
6 You issued Colorado’s first Climate Action Plan with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What steps will your state have to take to reach those goals?
“Realizing that the daily activities of state government have a significant impact on the quality of Colorado’s public health, environment and use
of its natural resources, we created the Greening Government program. Each state department and campus will create a sustainability management system to track and report their greening government performance. In addition, we’ve increased the renewable energy standard, brought on thousands of new clean and renewable energy megawatts through wind and solar power plants and through local solar rooftops. We’ve also worked very hard at energy efficiency measures.”
7 Colorado is one of the top 10 states with LEED certification projects for state buildings. Why is this important for state government?
“Saving energy also saves taxpayers money. In this time of a recession, we realize that we must do everything we can to save money. At the Governor’s Energy Office, there is a high performance building program that promotes highly efficient new construction for school districts and other public agencies. Buildings that significantly reduce their energy use see dramatic cost-savings. The best example of this is in our schools. In times of slashed budgets, school districts are freeing up money to spend on books, children and the classroom instead of writing high energy bills. We are investing in our future by saving energy today.”
8 Colorado has several energy grant programs. Why are those programs a good investment for the state?
“These grant programs are able to provide critical funding to communities, public and private organizations in order to complete programs, projects or fund a start-up company. The grant funding is often used by communities to build or retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient. The Governor’s Energy Office has a NEED Grant program that is designed to help move these technologies and projects forward through strategic grant funding in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for consumers, businesses and governments.”
9 Why do you think it is important for state officials to be involved in these types of activities?
“My administration and its agencies have been able to stimulate economic development and create jobs through grant-funded opportunities. When communities decide to make changes to become sustainable, to reduce the energy consumption of their public buildings or to encourage more energy efficient new homes, communities thrive. Sustainable communities attract good jobs, build good homes that are comfortable, energy and money saving for homeowners, and create a strong sense of community. Most importantly, communities are interested in keeping dollars spent locally, and energy efficient and renewable energy projects are a valuable instrument for this and for economic development.”
10 What advice would you give to policymakers with regard to efficiency and sustainability?
“For many years, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures were viewed as the ‘right thing to do,’ but now we know that they save money. Building a New Energy Economy is the right thing to do because it increases our energy, economic and environmental security—which is the best way to build vibrant communities that offer good jobs and a great place to live.”