Bill Ritter at AAEA Conference: Congress Misses on Advanced Energy

Bill Ritter at AAEA Conference: Congress Misses on Advanced Energy
Bill Ritter

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said the U.S. government needs to look at advanced energy the same way the U.S. military does.

Ritter was the keynote speaker at Wednesday's Empowering Arkansas event, the second annual policy conference of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. Ritter, a Democrat, served as Colorado governor from 2006-2010 and is noted for his work in clean energy.

Ritter is now founding director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

The AAEA is an affiliate of the Advanced Energy Economy and is made up of Arkansas businesses, from manufacturers to startups including Innovate Arkansas firms, as well as researchers and public officials. AAEA estimates that Arkansas has more than 100 advanced energy companies employing roughly 11,000 workers.

In noting how Congress needs to emulate the military when it comes to advanced energy, Ritter cited Fort Carson in Colorado, one of the U.S. Army's largest domestic bases. He said it has implemented a plan to be net zero in terms of energy consumption -- harnessing more natural energy such as solar or wind than its annual demand -- by 2020.

"Why is the military moving on this and not Congress?" Ritter asked. "The answer is two words -- threat analysis."

Not seeking and developing clean, alternate sources of energy endangers the country's future, Ritter believes.

"Congress does its threat analysis every two years -- the first Tuesday in November," he said.

Lamenting that "Washington D.C. is broken," Ritter said movement on advanced energy must begin at the local level, where partisan politics is less evident. He believes it's up to business communities on the local level to move advanced energy forward.

"It didn't seem to me that there was an opportunity for comprehensive advanced energy legislation in Washington D.C. anytime soon," he said.

His Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE), currently working with the Obama Administration in an advisory role on clean energy, works with many states where Ritter said he has found "willing ears."

During his time as governor, Colorado passed 57 advanced energy bills. Ritter praised Arkansas for its legislative work on clean energy, citing it as an example of how the issue can transcend partisan politics.

In the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers passed the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, approved amendments to the Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Act, authorized state agencies to issue energy efficiency improvement bonds, and passed the Clean Burning Motor Fuels Development Act.

"Arkansas moved the needle on energy efficiency in a pretty serious way," he said. "Relative to other states, Arkansas did a pretty good job."

Ritter called advanced energy perhaps the most important issue for generations to come, not only from a climate change perspective but an economic development one as well.

Other notes of interest from Ritter's address:

  • The CNEE developed a website,, that tracks advanced energy legislation in every state.
  • Ritter doesn't believe there will be a renewable energy standard expansion in the next several years.
  • He said some states are thinking about enacting their own clean energy standards.
  • Carbon pricing will never happen, he believes. The politics to move it forward is just not there, he said.
  • Capping emissions from existing coal plants will be the biggest thing the EPA does, he believes.
  • Ritter said the mortgage industry doesn't recognize that energy efficiency has value.

To move the conversation forward in the current political reality, Ritter said advanced energy proponents must make the "business case."

"Clean energy solutions reduce emissions but also create jobs," he said. "This spans the partisan divide."