The issue: New technologies and a push for clean energy create uncertainty in the coal industry.
What we think: Change is a constant and embracing change equals opportunity. Failing
to adapt equals a failure to thrive.
Tell us what you think: Send us an email at email@example.com.
Jobs in clean energy — wind, solar, electric cars — are on the rise across Colorado, a result of both a policy push for 100 percent renewable energy and the realities of the energy industry.
More companies and public utilities are embracing clean energy as a means to grow the economy, improve health and wellness, and reduce the greenhouse gases that are choking our planet. Those who choose to cling to outdated, dirty coal complain that new technology is taking jobs and ruining energy companies.
Those people are missing the big economic picture.
According to the Advanced Energy Economy group, the number of Colorado-based workers in “advanced energy jobs” grew by 4 percent in 2018, compared to overall job growth of 2.4 percent.
Consider the benefits of Vestas in Pueblo. The wind energy company bolstered the city’s manufacturing base through job creation. While it’s weathered its share of ups and downs — which any new industry faces — it’s still a benefit to the people in the Steel City.
Disruptions happen in all industries — and they can be toughest for those whose livelihoods are immediately affected, but there are others who are just unable to see opportunity in the challenge. Consider horse-and-buggy companies when people starting buying cars; typewriter sales against mass-produced computers; Kodak when phones started including cameras; retail stores competing against internet sales. The list is as endless as commerce itself.
Smart companies pivot, retrain staff and maintain jobs; smart communities embrace smart technology, clean energy and growth. Those who stubbornly fight to maintain the status quo — clinging to outdated mentalities in the face of disruptive technologies — only fail in the long run.
As clean energy takes over, there will be more jobs, not fewer; more opportunities to create small businesses, to learn new skills, to move in sync with a new economic reality. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. We need to stay nimble, and not just keep up with that change, but lead it.
Wind and solar are now cheaper than coal and represent a step forward in fighting climate change. Given that reality, what business would continue to cling to toxic and antiquated methods of producing energy? According to recent studies, only a quarter of electricity generated by U.S. coal is cheaper than green power.
At one time, coal-cleaning technologies — like the NeuStream in place at Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs — could have provided that disruption to sustain coal mining and maintain the power plant. But as we’ve seen at Drake, when those systems fail — and they do fail — the air becomes dangerous to breathe. It’s why so many people here are fighting to close the power plant and move to natural gas, wind and solar.
Pay attention to the signs: We can’t afford dirty coal or air pollution. If Colorado doesn’t make the shift toward cleaner energy, businesses will move where it’s less expensive — and people will follow.
Instead of decrying the end of the coal industry, we should embrace new technology and cleaner energy. It’s just the latest in a long line of change. Societies march forward, disruption happens, people adapt. Change is a constant and embracing
change equals opportunity. Let’s not miss ours.