Resource Rich Colorado

On Dec. 14, 2016, the Colorado Energy Coalition (CEC), an industry affiliate of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (Metro Denver EDC), today released its annual study measuring Colorado's competitive position in the oil, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, alternative-fuel vehicles, and sustainability sectors of the energy industry.

The eighth edition of Resource Rich Colorado (RRC) compares Colorado to the 49 other states based on the availability of natural resources for energy generation, pertinent energy policies and programs, and applicable intellectual resources crucial to the energy industry.

"While many states are typically strong in either fossil fuels or renewables, Colorado has the advantage of rich and abundant resources in both, positioning it as an energy leader not only in the United States, but globally," said Brian Payer, Program Manager for Strategic Operations at Sphera and co-chair of the CEC's Resource Rich Colorado Committee. 

The study found that Colorado's balanced energy economy is strong in several key areas:

  • Third in LEED-certified building cumulative square footage per capita
  • Sixth in natural gas and seventh in oil production
  • Ninth in installed solar capacity (447 MW) and 10th in solar generation*
  • Eighth in cleantech venture capital investments
  • 10th in installed wind capacity (2,960 MW) and seventh in wind-energy generation*
  • 10th in alternative fuel vehicles adoption per capita
  • 30 federal laboratories are an asset to state’s climate of innovation and are primary drivers for energy company attraction and expansion
    (*as percentage of total state power generation)

RRC also includes new employment information for the energy industry. Combined direct and indirect employment in Colorado’s energy industry represents a $14.9 billion annual economic impact.

Colorado ranked fourth in the nation for cleantech industry employment concentration in 2016. Directly employing 26,270 people, employment rose by 6 percent over the previous year. Five-year growth was 22.4 percent compared to the U.S. growth rate of 17.6 percent.

Colorado is ninth in fossil fuels employment, but like other areas of the country, experienced employment contraction in 2016. The state had a -4.7 percent decrease in employment compared to a -8.4% in the U.S. Overall, Colorado had 5.9 percent, five-year job growth in fossil fuels, compared to -1.5 percent for the U.S.

“While Colorado’s energy industry is vibrant on many fronts, companies are facing market, regulatory, and political uncertainty,” explained Heidi Morgan, Manager of Colorado Government Affairs for Black Hills Energy and co-chair of the CEC.

Additional challenges highlighted in RRC include uncharacteristically low oil and gas prices, continued local control debates over oil and gas development, global climate change concerns, strengthened ozone regulations, and energy-policy uncertainty at the federal level.

Another highlight from the report shows that Colorado has a lower gasoline tax than most states. At 22 cents per gallon, Colorado ranks 40th, placing well below the national average of 30.5 cents per gallon.

“The state last raised its gas tax in 1991,” said Payer. “The state’s citizens might look to raising the gas tax as a way to fund necessary, new infrastructure investments or look toward other funding options.”

Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC, heralded news last week that Colorado Senate Republicans plan to form a select committee to discuss energy and environmental issues. He hopes RRC will be a valuable resource to the newly formed committee.

"This study is an important tool that we use to educate and inform citizens and policy makers about Colorado's important strengths in modeling a balanced energy approach," said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC.

In order to quantify Colorado’s role in the broader global marketplace, RRC also analyzes national and international statistics. A detailed analysis of these competitive rankings can be found by downloading the full report.