US Sen. Mark Udall: Let’s set the standard |

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US Sen. Mark Udall: Let’s set the standard

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

Back in 2004, Coloradans took a big, brave step forward in the emerging clean energy economy and embraced Amendment 37, which created a statewide Renewable Electricity Standard.

That year, I was proud to lead the campaign for the bipartisan initiative with former Republican State House Speaker Lola Spradley. We barnstormed the state, speaking to anyone who would listen, and convinced the voters to support a requirement that Colorado get 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015.

We heard dire predictions from naysayers, but Coloradans rose to the challenge. In three short years, we were on pace to meet that 10 percent goal, well ahead of schedule. The Colorado Legislature saw this rapid success and raised the Renewable Electricity Standard to 20 percent by 2020, and then raised it again to 30 percent by 2020 this spring.

More than two-thirds of US states now have a renewable energy requirement similar to Colorado's because of the economic and national security benefits. It's time for the country to catch up with the states. I've introduced a bill with Sen. Tom Udall, of New Mexico, that would create a national RES requiring that 25 percent of our country's energy come from renewables by 2025. And I'm pushing my colleagues in Congress to think boldly and position America to lead in the new global clean energy economy.

Colorado's experience foretells the benefits of a national RES. Our bold policies have helped create nearly 20,000 new jobs since 2004. The solar energy requirement alone has brought an estimated 1,500 jobs. And there are numerous success stories across the state:

SMA Solar, one of the world's leading producers of solar inverters, established manufacturing facilities here. Abound Solar, a successful thin-film solar company spun out of Colorado State University, opened a manufacturing facility in Longmont, and just last month announced they were going to expand their facility.

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Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, has taken root and already has created more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs at its three Colorado factories. Recently, it announced a major hiring initiative that will employ hundreds of additional workers in the next year.

The presence of Vestas' manufacturing plant has attracted supply chain businesses. Hexcel Corp. established a manufacturing facility in Windsor, where it produces carbon fiber and other components for Vestas right in our backyard.

This isn't to say that renewables are the only answer to our country's energy needs. We need an all-of-the-above strategy. Nuclear energy and natural gas can and should fill a larger share of our energy portfolio. And if we're really going to embrace 21st century solutions, we must acknowledge that America will be dependent on fossil fuels for years to come.

But when you look at the future demands for clean energy and the economic opportunities ahead of us, renewable resources hold the greatest promise. 

A recent Navigant report estimates that a robust national RES could create nearly 274,000 jobs. We must pursue forward-thinking policies that will help America seize and lead this growing market.

And we're at a turning point.

We're in a race against foreign competitors that can quickly leave us in their dust. Last month, China's energy use surpassed ours for the first time ever. And what's most notable is that they are taking bolder action to address their growing demand with more clean energy. China also announced that it's considering plans to invest $738 billion throughout the next decade in clean energy development — nearly the size of last year's economic stimulus bill.

That's why I'm urging my colleagues to support the strongest possible RES in any energy legislation brought to the floor this year. I've drafted an amendment that could be added to a clean energy bill now moving through the Senate.

I'm disappointed that Washington has moved so slowly on such important legislation, but the Senate will have another opportunity in September to vote on a nationwide RES, and I will be fighting to make sure we seize that chance.