It’s time for the Springs to embrace renewable energy

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While we’re surrounded by some of the nation’s most scenic natural beauty, Colorado Springs isn’t a very green place.

There are no prominent renewable-energy businesses here, and there are few houses and businesses in the region that rely even partially on renewable energy sources.

As Business Journal reporter Jonathan Easly recently reported, on this score, Colorado Springs lags far behind some of our neighbors to the north, namely Denver and Boulder.

It turns out that rebates offered to businesses and residents by Denver’s private utilities company, Xcel, have helped considerably.

Xcel has paid out $167 million since its rebate program began four years ago. CSU, by comparison, paid out $700,000 this year and plans to offer $1.5 million next year.

While the doubling of its program is laudable, it’s easy to see why renewables haven’t gotten very far off the ground here.

It’s time to boost our investment with bigger rebates.

Because it’s owned by the city, it’s not up to CSU to make that decision; it’s up to the City Council.

The question, of course, is where will the money come from?

The answer could be in a small surcharge, which is the way Xcel handles it.

The objection to this always has centered on a question of fairness. Opponents say it’s unfair to expect them to help pay for their neighbor’s renewable energy projects.

But what if more of us embraced solar or some other alterative? Our CSU bills would drop, wouldn’t they? Of course they would.

Coal prices are on the rise, too, so any reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels would also mean smaller energy bills.

A lot has been said about the renewable energy economy. Some of it could easily turn out overly optimistic. But attracting more sustainable-energy companies and jobs was one of the key recommendations of Operation 6035, the group working to improve the city’s economic prospects. A surcharge to provide more rebates to help companies and homeowners offset the cost of installing solar panels would fuel that effort.

We’ll be electing a new slate of City Council members next spring. Between now and then, be sure you understand the candidates’ views about renewable energy. It could spell the difference between catching up or continuing to fall behind our neighbor to the north.