Apr 1, 2021 - News
Solar energy set to more than double in Colorado in 2021
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."

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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