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Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper said there will be a “full-court press” to keep the Governor’s Energy Office running.
Hickenlooper, Denver’s mayor who will be sworn in as Colorado’s governor on Jan. 11, was recently asked if the Governor’s Energy Office, or GEO, will continue to exist.
“The GEO is largely funded by grants,” Hickenlooper said in response to the question from an audience member attending the recent Urban Land Institute conference called Recharging Colorado: Energy, Jobs and Land Use. Unfortunately, Hickenlooper said, many of the grants are in part of the cycle that they are expiring. He said the state budget cannot afford to fund the GEO’s cost, without the grants.
“What we have going is a full-court press to write grants and get back funding for it,” Hickenlooper said. “We would be crazy not to continue and expand what Gov. Ritter has created.”
GEO directs $150 million in funding
The GEO, with 37 full-time employees, has directed $150 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for a wide-variety of programs including rebates, grants, and programs to sustain and create jobs in the “New Energy Economy.” This year, was its peak year with the $80 million in grants from the recovery act. About half the money goes to 12 partners that are weatherizing more than 8,500 homes and apartments housing low-income Coloradans. It did receive $150,000 in state funding in 2010 from interest generated from the state’s severance bank account. It is fully funded through the 2011, but in 2012, the Recovery Act funds start to go away.
Hickenlooper noted that he was recently at a funeral in Los Angeles (for his cousin, film director George Hickenlooper), and that several groups of people came up to him to talk about the great things Colorado is doing as far clean energy, such as wind, solar, bio-fuels and natural gas. “The new energy economy,” Hickenlooper said. “We can own that.”
In order to reach that goal, “we have to make sure we keep the GEO,” Hickenlooper continued. “We will figure out a way to fund it.” But he said it will be “more focused” under his watch.
New laws not the answer
“We have passed the laws we needed to pass,” Hickenlooper said. “Now, we will have to implement them.” He said that he would like to see Colorado known as a state that has the most energy efficient stock of buildings. “How to we measure that? Isolate the various factors? Insulation? Wind? Solar? Geo-thermal?” Hickenlooper made his comments on an empty floor of the new 1800 Larimer building, the headquarters for Xcel Energy. The Platinum-LEED building was developed by Westfield Development and is considered a model how an office tower can be constructed to the highest degree of sustainability with only a nominal increase in cost.
Hickenlooper said also people need to be educated on the dangers of global warming. “I’m not saying the sky is falling,” Hickenlooper said. “But the smartest people I know, the smartest scientists I know, say that global warming is going to have grievous consequences, if we don’t do something about it.” He said many people still refuse to believe that man is playing a role in changing the climate, despite all of the media attention.
Hickenlooper noted that the reason he went to graduate school after college to become a geologist, is because he didn’t think he would make it as a writer. “It was a failure of the student,” said the self-deprecating Hickenlooper. “I had a great teacher in college, Paul Horgan, who said: “Everything has been said. But not everything has been said superbly. And even if it has been said superbly, it has to be said freshly, again and again. We need to say freshly how we can still have a very high quality of life, but do it for a lot less energy consumption. And we need to say it again and again.”