Colorado expands energy portfolio to lead the nation

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As Colorado makes significant inroads into solar and wind energy, the state still ranks in the top 10 for traditional energy methods such as coal, oil and natural gas exploration.

According to the latest figures, the state’s energy sector ranks seventh in the nation for overall production and seventh in crude oil production.

Colorado also is fifth for natural gas exploration and production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The state dropped to 11th for coal production, but is seeing a slight uptick this year that is expected to continue through 2018, said Brian Lewandowski of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Lewandowski was one of several speakers at the Big Horn Leadership Institute for Energy, a group of energy industry leaders, government officials and private citizens interested in the state’s energy future and in the direction state policy is headed for renewable energy sources.

And Colorado ranks in the top 10 of states for its solar capacity and is ninth in wind, Lewandowski said. The diverse portfolio is reflected in the state’s electric generation: most still comes from coal, but natural gas is gaining ground and renewables account for about 15 percent of statewide electric generation.

But all the exploration — and the addition of wind turbines across the Front Range — is not without its issues, he said.

“As oil and gas exploration continues, it’s concentrated in Weld County, with some in Garfield, Montezuma, La Plata and Las Animas counties,” Lewandowski said. “It’s triggered an ongoing debate about energy development close to the urban Front Range. The two run into each other. For example, 91 percent of the oil and gas growth is within range of the state’s largest population. It’s going to continue to be a problem.”

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