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January 07, 2009 12:04 AM UTC

How Can We Make Renewable Energy Affordable?

  • by: morgancarroll

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado has an abundance of solar and wind energy, yet it is EXPENSIVE!  Going green shouldn’t just be for the wealthy, which is why affordable financing for mainstream Colorado is so critical.

If we make renewables accessible for most folks, there is an enormous potential for job creation while greening up our grid.

I’ll be introducing the Renewable Energy Finance Act tomorrow.

This bill facilitates four different financing options that allow monthly payments:

1.  3rd party lease agreements;

2.  bank loans;

3.  credit union;

4.  mortgage

These loans or payment plans can be used for:

1.   solar;

2.   geothermal;

3.   wind or

4.   energy efficiency upgrades

for residences or businesses.  

This measure will bring investment capitol to Colorado, make alternative energy upgrades more affordable for hundreds of thousands of people and create new jobs.

If you were a Colorado legislator what else would you do to make renewable energy more affordable / accessible?  You have a chance to impact actual legislation.


26 thoughts on “How Can We Make Renewable Energy Affordable?

  1. No taxes for businesses providing alternative energy.  

    Nada, zilch.

    Make a baseline in kwh they have to reach in terms of hours, but after that, let them keep the money they earn.

  2. The money or financing would come from 3rd party solar leasing companies, banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders and possibly some private investors.

    It uses (but does not raise) the existing rebate structure but no new public funds are needed to get this going.  Good Q.

    1. Your answer made me realize I just misread your original post. Thanks for setting me straight though.

      I look forward to reading the bill when it’s made available, and if I still have questions, I’ll e-mail your office.

      I also wanted to say that I appreciate this issue being a priority for you, and I hope that you’ll make it one for the Senate.

    2. as part of the Obama stimulus package?

      Since the federal tax credits for renewables have lapsed courtesy of the Bush Administration, would it be possible to integrate those as part of the plan?  Or federal tax incentives for small business/indivduals?

      Maybe our new Congressional members could push this in DC…

      1. There is a chance for a federal booster here which could help bolster the incentives (rebates) that bring better affordability.  At this juncture, I’m not counting on the feds, but definitely have room to include their help, should it become available.

  3. You need to include common ownership communities to residences and businesses so that you can assemble larger projects and get economies of scale.

  4. Over at CU-Boulder, the student union committed $500,000 as a revolving fund that would be earmarked for specific efficiency projects by its cost centers. The loan (from the union proper to entity within the union performing the upgrade) is paid back with cost savings with the total payment being the initial loan plus inflation so that at the end the fund is kept intact while the cost center is paying for it by forgoing savings but otherwise it is free to them.

    I always thought this was a great model for a state and/or federal program. My ideal funding source would be a carbon tax dedicated to the fund (and potentially a portion of the tax refunded as a per capita credit to reduce the burden of the tax while still incentivizing a reduction in carbon usage). I recognize that this isn’t necessarily politically feasible though.

    Where I have a question is more in the finance mechanism (as opposed to the funding source), which is a bit confusing to me. I think the relevant questions, are, in your plan:

    A. Is the loan able to be paid back over time based only on energy efficiency savings/renewable energy production?

    B. What kind of process will be used for each loan to estimate the value of the funded project?

    C. Will the loan guarantee A, even if B proves to be inaccurate, or will the individual receiving the loan be liable for unanticipated expenses, potentially threatening their economic viability?

    Anyway, this is definitely the right direction to be headed. There is an incredible amount of potential simply based on using our current energy production more effectively and through small-scale energy projects. I mean, just imagine the potential energy generation of sticking a few solar panels on every house in the suburbs.

  5. Is there a way to focus money towards recipients of federal LEAP funds?  I don’t have the numbers to back it up, but I am willing to bet that the energy efficiency of low-income households is far lower than the average household income.  Focusing energy efficiency money in this area would provide the biggest bang for the buck.  Further, it would free up discretionary spending for the those in the greatest need.

    1. to give low-income households money for minor adjustments, things like caulking and that stuff you put around doors.  It would have saved LEAP a small fortune, but didn’t pass because there wasn’t money to invest (Plant was even JBC Chair at the time).  It’s a good thought though.

      1. …is the greatest bang for the buck. You don’t have to be a genius to do a lot of obvious work.  You might have to go to IR photography to see where the leaks really are, to track them all down.

        I’ve put in those fluorescents wherever I can, we now have ten.  They use 23% of the incandescents for the same light output.  

  6. Senator Carroll, congrats on your election and good luck in the 2009 session.

    In terms of something that might stand a chance of passing out of committee here in CO, I’d suggest an expansion of LEAP by carving out a piece of the severance tax or federal mineral lease royalties to subsidize performance contracting for solar / passive solar / geothermal HVAC. This would also be an economic stimulus for contractors.

    Thinking more nationally, having rational tax policies with respect to the production and consumption of coal and crude oil would go a long way to shifting our economy to renewable energy.

    We could use the proceeds of a significant carbon tax or cap & trade auction towards R&D, tax incentives for Green Energy, or LEAP-style subsidies for financially vulnerable consumers. I’m hopeful that we could see this happen in DC sometime in the next four years.

    If the price of gasoline were taxed to reflect just the cost of using the military to secure our oil supplies, renewables would become relatively more profitable than conventional energy very quickly. The resulting investment and R&D would lead to scale economies in production and network economies in distribution, leading to lower prices for consumers (eventually).

    Aside from significantly changing the relative prices faced by producers and consumers for conventional vs. renewable energy, I think anything else will be too small to make a meaningful difference on its own. Baby steps I guess…

  7. The Front Range forests will have an overwhelming abundance of wood in the near future.  Convert those resources into renewable fuels like pellets or simply split wood.

    In the mountain and rural communities where people heat with wood already, start wood banks which act like food banks for wood.  People qualifying can pick up wood at the wood bank to heat their homes.

    Provide grants and incentives to change out old inefficient wood stoves with new EPA compliant ones.  If a wood stove costs a thousand dollars then give the property owner a matching grant of $500.  More people burning more wood with less pollution makes us less dependent on fossil fuels like propane and natural gas.

    Man has used wood to stay warm since he kicked out the last sabertooth tiger for his first cave.  Converting from fossil fuels to renewable fuels is possible if we manage our forests correctly and prevent unstoppable fires from starting.  Ashes aren’t assets so we have to invest in protecting our forests by investing in wildfire prevention and protection programs.

      1. At some point all of that wood is going to either 1) go up in smoke and release the carbon anyway, or 2) begin to rot and release methane.  If we can gasify the wood and turn it into an electron before then, we’ve displaced electrons originating from coal plants and solved a potential fire hazard.

        1. But we do other things with wood. I’m not arguing that we won’t get x amount of wood through the necessary management of forests. I’m just wondering why it should be allocated to a sub-optimal energy source instead of the other functions of wood (paper, etc). Now, I’m not sure which of these functions demand prime farmed trees vs. scrap, but it seems burning the wood should be lower on the list of uses for excess wood stock.

          1. We have an insane amount of wood that could be havested and used.  The beetle infested wood is good for dimensional lumber for about five years, after that the moisture content goes down and isn’t as strong.

            There aren’t enough mills in CO to harvest much wood and transporting the wood very far is cost prohibitive. The closest paper mill is in Oregon or something.

            There are a variety of credits, incentives and grants to help discover additional uses of the wood in CO, but so far pellets has been the only real marketable option.

            I hope woody biomass is included in the definition of clean energy in Sen. Carroll’s bill

      2. gets immeasurably worse if you wait until an unstoppable fire releases mega-tons of carbon into the atmosphere is one summer weekend but I’m no scientist.

        It seems more reasonable to have thousands of tiny fires that radiate the heat indoors instead of igniting a gargantuan one that burns so bright that you can see it from space.

        If you allow an unstoppable fire then you still have to use fossil fuel and the associated carbon byproducts to heat your home.

  8. Germany has achieved wide expansion of their renewable energy infrastructure by instituting feed-in tariffs.  If we really want to get serious about developing the 26 gigawatts of untapped renewable energy in this state we need to get serious about truly opening up the marketplace so that everybody can participate.  Short of that, it will continue to be business as usual and the regulated monopolies in Colorado will continue to hold this vast resource hostage.

    1. There was an article recently in the New York Times about smaller, energy efficient “passive houses” being built in Germany:

      DARMSTADT, Germany – From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

      In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room – but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.

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