New Analysis Shows Colorado Can Meet Future Carbon Emissions Standards, Reduce Emissions 29 Percent by 2020

WASHINGTON — New analysis of Colorado’s power sector finds that the state has the policies and opportunity to further reduce their carbon emissions in coming years. The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows existing state policies and improved use of infrastructure could lower Colorado’s emissions 29 percent by 2020 (below 2011 emissions levels).

These reductions will help the state meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected national carbon pollution standards.

“Colorado is already on a path toward emissions reductions, and we’ve identified ways the state can further bolster business innovation and investment in low carbon energy sources — all while continuing to fight climate change,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI who led the analysis. “By taking advantage of lower-emissions infrastructure already in place, they would be well-positioned to meet moderately ambitious federal emissions standards.”

The EPA issued proposed carbon emissions standards for new power plants in September and is expected to announce rules for existing plants next year. These standards are one of the most important parts of the Climate Action Plan that President Obama introduced in June 2013.

Following are ways that Colorado can help meet these reductions.

Meeting existing state policy goals:

  • Meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) passed in 2007 would reduce Colorado’s emissions by 7 percent by 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Meeting the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) passed in 2007 would reduce Colorado’s emissions by 5 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels. Using existing infrastructure to achieve further emissions reductions:

  • Increasing the state’s utilization of combined cycle natural gas capacity to 75 percent would reduce emissions by 15 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;

  • Increasing efficiency of existing coal-fired power plant fleet would reduce emissions by 1 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Increasing combined heat and power (CHP) at commercial and industrial facilities would reduce emissions by 2 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.

Centennial State Governor John W. Hickenlooper made national news earlier this week when he proposed new limits on methane and other harmful air emissions caused by oil and natural gas operations. While the Governor’s proposal will reduce emissions from local wells and pipelines, this analysis shows how the state can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Additionally, these policies have set the stage for the rapid growth of the solar and wind sectors. By the end of this year, nearly 500 megawatts of new wind capacity and solar capacity will have been added to the state’s energy portfolio.

“Building on Colorado’s commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy production will bring multiple benefits to the state,” Obeiter says. “Along with creating jobs and raising demand for in-state manufacturing, shifting to renewable energy such as wind and solar could lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future while driving emissions reductions in the power sector.”

And there is room for further improvement; the analysis suggests that strengthening the EERS and RPS plus increasing CHP capacity could propel Colorado to surpass even ambitious federal standards and lower emissions by as much as 45 percent (below 2011 levels).

The Colorado fact sheet is available here:

Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie, Flickr


WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, and more. Our more than 300 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.