Champion New Energy

Editor’s note: The following appeared in our sister publication, the Boulder County Business Report.

Gov. John Hickenlooper had big shoes to fill when it came to championing the “New Energy Economy.” His predecessor, Bill Ritter, arguably coined the term and spent four years helping to build clean tech as a core industry for Colorado.

As governor, Ritter demonstrated that clean tech can be a major driver of the Colorado economy, helping to lure Vestas Wind Systems — now employing about 1,600 workers in Windsor, Brighton and Pueblo, among other companies.

Ritter now directs the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU. When Hickenlooper took office in January 2011, many observers wondered whether he would match Ritter’s enthusiasm for the “New Energy Economy.”

Alas, it seems not to be the case. As readers will recall, our reporter, Steve Lynn, recently found plenty of frustration in Colorado clean-tech circles about Hickenlooper’s comparative silence. The reordering of priorities at the state Energy Office, as outlined by Steve in a story on the cover of this issue, only underscores the point.

Admittedly, the governor is dealing with a more conservative General Assembly than did his predecessor, making passage of bills promoting the alternative energy sector less certain. But we suspect that support for clean tech remains strong, with thousands of jobs spread across many Front Range counties.

State budgetary resources, too, are constrained, making it more difficult to enact tax rebates and other measures.

And it’s not as if Hickenlooper has been completely silent on clean tech; his administration did lure General Electric’s PrimeStar Solar $300 million plant to Aurora.

But such successes are quickly forgotten without constant reinforcement. A great deal of Ritter’s success was in his expert use of the “bully pulpit.” He championed clean tech at every turn, throughout the state.

That high profile helped propel Colorado to every national discussion about the emergence of clean tech.

There’s no question that Hickenlooper faces challenges that Ritter did not. But, it’s time for the governor to elevate the discussion, devising a statewide blueprint for building the “New Energy Economy.”

The bully pulpit awaits.

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