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6/24/2004

Spotlight shines on renewables

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — For the first time, the state’s largest renewable energy conference will hit the state’s largest population base.

Former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth, current president of the U.N. Foundation and the Better World Fund, will deliver the keynote address at the seventh annual Colorado Renewable Energy Conference this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the University of Denver.

Chris Juniper of Natural Capitalism Inc. will be another of the featured speakers, and he said he’ll “challenge” the audience by making them aware of steps certain organizations are taking toward more sustainable energy reliance.

“Fort Carson is to operate 100 percent on renewable energy by 2027,” said Juniper, a 20-year veteran of economic development and chief operating officer for Natural Capitalism, a group that takes its name from a book on sustainable business practices put out by the Rocky Mountain Institute. “DuPont’s goal is to have its energy around the world be 10 percent from renewable resources by 2010. They installed that goal in about the year 2000, but they acknowledge it may be one of their toughest goals,” he said.

The point, Juniper noted, is that if a company like DuPont can set a mark like that, any organization of any size should be able to do it.

Dave Bowden, president of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, said along with the economic opportunities that come with renewable energy sources, another focus of the conference will be to garner support for the Colorado Renewable Energy Initiative, a ballot initiative CRES is trying to put before voters this November.

The measure “would call for the state’s seven largest utilities to provide an increasing percentage of electricity from renewable resources — topping out at 10 percent (of the total) in 2015,” Bowden said.

Currently, 16 states have such a law on the books, he said, but the Colorado Senate has shot down the proposal the past three years when it has come before the Legislature.

“The majority of Colorado’s electricity, between 80 and 83 percent, is generated by burning coal,” said Bowden.

While natural gas burns cleaner and results in far fewer particulates going into the air, it still produces carbon dioxide, he said, adding that natural gas prices are also very volatile.

“Renewables,” Bowden said, have “fixed costs and are not subject to the vagaries of the market.”

As of last week, Bowden said CRES had gathered more than 22,000 signatures for the ballot initiative, and they need 100,000 legitimate ones by early August to get it onto November’s ballot.

Now in its seventh year, the CREC has bounced around from location to location. Bowden said anywhere from 300 to 450 people are expected this weekend at the University of Denver.

“Our membership across the state has gone up 20 to 25 percent in the past couple of years, and the attendance at our conference has been increasing as well,” said Bowden, adding that CRES now has about 600 members statewide.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.