Colorado Moves To Renewable Energy And Away From Coal

State Economy

The population of the state of Colorado is approximately 5.89 million people[1]. Colorado is the 20th largest state in population in the United States.

In 2020, Colorado’s economy was ranked 16th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the aerospace, technology, mining, hydrocarbon, agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2004, Colorado enacted a mandatory renewable energy standard, which requires investor owned utilities to sell 30% of the electricity from renewable sources by 2030[4].

In December 2020, Colorado utilities[5] used coal (36.7%), renewable energy (35.8%), and natural gas (27.5%) to generate electricity. Currently, wind, solar, hydropower and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in Colorado.

Colorado’s use of low cost renewable energy offset the high cost of coal-fueled power generation. In December 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Colorado was 12.14 per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.80¢ per kWh.

In January 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis released the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which detailed how the state will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% of 2005 levels by 2025, and 50% by 2030.

Recent renewable energy developments in Colorado include:

  • 2,300 MW Wind Projects – In February 2021, American utility Xcel announced plans to dramatically increase the company’s wind power capacity over the next ten years. Xcel’s goal is to cut the utility’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 85% by 2030.
  • 500 MW Wind Project – In September 2020, Xcel commissioned the Cheyenne Ridge wind farm, located approximately 150 miles southeast of Denver.
  • 300 MW Solar Project – In October 2020, British solar developer, Lightsource BP commenced work on the Bighorn Solar Project, which is located in Pueblo, Colorado. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 200 MW Wind Project – In February 2021, American utility, NextEra Energy commenced construction on the Niyol Wind Project, which is located approximately 125 miles northeast of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 150 MW Wind Project – Electric cooperative, Holy Cross Energy is continuing work on the Arriba Wind Farm, which is located approximately 100 miles southeast of Denver. The wind project is forecast to be commissioned by July 2021.
  • Transportation Electrification – In December 2020, Xcel received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to build electric vehicle charging stations and to support the conversion of school buses, government, and business fleet vehicles to electric.


Coal mining began near the town of Boulder, Colorado in 1859[6]. Coal was initially used to fuel forges, furnaces, and steam engines. In 2020, the coal mined from the eleven active mines is primarily used to fuel power plants.

In 2010, approximately 68% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. In 2020, 37% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the dramatic decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.
  2. Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[7].
  3. The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.

The move to renewable energy across America is being driven by concerns over climate change, environment, and economics.  Colorado is clearly moving toward renewable energy and away from coal.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] Colorado Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Colorado  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Colorado State Profile and Energy Estimates,

[6]Rocky Mountain News, 6 October 1859,

[7] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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