Energy and Natural Resources

Metro Denver is leading the way to a balanced energy economy

The nine-county Metro Denver and Northern Colorado region ranked fifth for fossil fuels energy employment and fourth among the nation's 50 largest metros for cleantech employment concentration in 2016. Overall, the energy industry cluster employs 52,850 people in the area.

Metro Denver Energy and Natural Resources Employment Snapshot U.S. data in ( )
Fossil Fuels Cleantech
Direct Employment 28,880 22,440
Companies 1,860 1,620
Five-Year Employment Growth (2012-2017) 4.6% (-8.2%) 20.5% (14.6%)
One-Year Employment Growth (2017) -0.2% (-0.2%) 1% (2.1%)
Direct Employment Concentration (2017) 1.2% (0.9%) 1% (0.5%)
Average Wage $107,410 $81,630
Employment Concentration Ranking (Among 50 largest metros) 9 6

The region is a top energy location, offering:

  1. The ability to recruit and retain senior management and scientific talent.
    • Nearly 40 percent of Coloradans have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second-highest college attainment rate in the nation behind Massachusetts. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey)
    • Colorado ranked ninth for the number of science, engineering, and health graduate students per 1,000 individuals ages 25 to 34 years old. (National Science Foundation, 2017)
    • Colorado ranked among the top 10 states for total solar employment, rising 20 percent between 2015 and 2016. (The Solar Foundation, 2017)
    • Colorado ranked fourth for wind-related employment, accounting for nearly 6 percent of the nation’s total wind-related jobs in 2016. (American Wind Energy Association, 2017)
    • Colorado ranked No. 2 for the “Best States for Jobs” in 2017 and ranked first nationally for job opportunities. (WalletHub, 2017) 
  2. Proximity to energy-related higher education programs and research centers.
    • Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in Golden ranked first among the top 10 schools in the nation for an engineering degree in 2016. (College Factual, 2017)
    • CSM is one of the few universities in the world to offer programs from baccalaureate through doctorate levels in all key fields related to energy and is the only institution in the world that offers doctoral programs in five of the major earth science disciplines. (Colorado School of Mines, 2017)
    • The Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) is the largest test facility for solar technologies in the U.S. (The Solar Technology Acceleration Center, 2017)
  3. Access to the research of a broad collection of federal laboratories and private R&D activities

    Colorado’s federally funded research facilities collectively contribute an estimated $2.6 billion to the state’s economy annually and employs 17,600 people. Ten laboratories have active commercialization programs, from technology transfer and licensed technology to spin-off companies and public-private partnerships. (University of Colorado, 2017)

    Key federal offices located in the nine-county region include:

    • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
    • National Center for Atmospheric Research
    • The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
    • The U.S. Bureau of Land Management
    • The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement
    • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
    • The U.S. Forest Service
    • The U.S. Department of Energy
    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • The U.S. Geological Survey
    • The Western Area Power Administration
  4. Business organizations and public policy programs designed to encourage industry growth
    • Sales and use tax is exempt for equipment used in R&D of clean technology. The exemption refunds up to $50,000 per year in sales and use taxes for companies with less than 35 employees and more than 50 percent employed in Colorado. (Exemption clarified in Colorado House Bill 15-1180)
    • The Advanced Industries Accelerator Programs include four types of grants and a global business support program to promote growth and sustainability in Colorado’s advanced industries, including energy and natural resources, among others. The program has awarded over $40 million in grants since its inception in 2013. (Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, 2017)

Metro Denver also offers world-class universities, such as the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), the only university in the nation to offer baccalaureate through doctorate degrees in all key energy fields. In addition, Colorado has one of the highest per capita concentrations of federally funded science and research centers in the nation with 30 federal laboratories and research institutions, including the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).