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Data: SEIA/Wood Mackenzie. Chart: John Frank/Axios

The annual solar energy capacity installed in Colorado is expected to more than double this year and continue to reach new heights in the future, a new report shows.

Why it matters: The new installations are resetting the energy landscape as the state moves toward the goal of 100% renewables by 2040.

By the numbers: 2021 and 2022 are the big boom years for new solar installations, according to the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie obtained by Axios.

  • The 46% growth in 2020 came mostly from utility companies like Xcel Energy increasing solar capacity as part of a plan to cut carbon emissions.
  • The trend is expected to continue. The solar market breakdown in Colorado is about 63% utilities and 27% residential.

What they're saying: "All the operators are building a ton of solar because it's the cheapest option in the portfolio," said state Sen. Chris Hansen. "We have great sun here, that's the other reason."

Expand chart

The big picture: U.S. solar generating capacity set new records in 2020, despite the pandemic slowing some projects, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

The state of play: Colorado is #11 in the nation for installed solar photovoltaic capacity, behind top states like California, Texas and Florida, the report found.

  • The Colorado Energy Office is working to improve that ranking by amplifying its advocacy to regulators and expanding programs to push rooftop solar for homes and businesses.
  • "The confluence of the policy direction from the state and the economics are really well aligned," said Will Toor, the office director.

The other side: The utilities will pass along the cost of adding solar capacity and retiring coal-fired plants to ratepayers. Xcel's plan will cost consumers $8 billion, The Colorado Sun reports.

The intrigue: Even with the increases, the state may struggle to meet Gov. Jared Polis' pledge for 100% renewable energy by 2040. Instead, Toor said he's focused on hitting 80% by 2030, another Polis target from his 2018 campaign.

  • In acknowledging the challenge, Toor said: "We are making great progress towards it, but there will be a lot more work to be done from 2030 or 2040."

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Biden calls for massive climate and transit package

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is asking Congress to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to remake transit, overhaul power grids and expand clean energy in a sweeping plan the White House says will fight climate change while outcompeting China.

Why it matters: The plan, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching federal investment to date in programs that would help curb greenhouse gas emissions. But it faces serious challenges in the closely divided Congress.

John Frank, author of Denver
Apr 1, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado Democrats want action on gun control after Boulder shooting

A King Soopers grocery store, not connected to the Boulder shooting, is reflected in the window of the Eagles Nest Armory in Arvada. The man charged in the shooting purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol from the store. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers from Colorado are demanding concrete action to address gun violence in the days after a mass shooting in Boulder left 10 dead.

What's happening: The conversation is increasingly focused on banning assault weapons and those like the Ruger AR-556 that the accused gunman used at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 31, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The U.S. is way behind in offshore wind

Expand chart
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals. Note: 2020 figures are estimates.

The U.S. currently lags way behind Europe and China in offshore wind, a fact the Biden administration hopes to change with plans to spur the development of 30 gigawatts of offshore U.S. wind generating capacity by 2030.

Why it matters: While several big commercial-scale projects along the Atlantic Coast are already in the works, there's only one small project in operation off Rhode Island as of now.