The Mountain West’s Rugged Terrain Reshaped by Clean Energy

Silhouette Of Two Engineers Shaking Hands With Electricity Pylon Against Dramatic Sky

The American West has always been defined by its pioneering spirit. Historically, the people of our nation have traveled west to find bountiful land, meaningful work, and better lives for their families. So, it should come as no surprise that this iconic region is home to bold, economic and environmental leadership from its representatives here in D.C.

With a watchful eye on the preservation of their natural resources, the Mountain West was quick to embrace a commonsense “all-of-the-above” approach to powering their communities’ homes and businesses. And with the near-endless supply of wind and solar resources, the economies of the West have found great benefit in pursuing these clean energy developments.

In Colorado, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) has sought to expand clean energy resources in his state to meet the twin goals of providing well-paying jobs for Colorado workers, while protecting the precious environment of the Rocky Mountains.

Under Senator Gardner’s leadership, Colorado has enjoyed a significant expansion in clean energy jobs. In 2019, the state touted over 36,000 energy efficiency jobs and nearly 18,000 jobs in renewables. Last year, Senator Gardner also introduced the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, which would greatly expand tax incentives for energy storage investment.

However, Colorado has been hit hard by the pandemic. Between March and April of this year, the state lost nearly 7,300 clean energy jobs and over 4,000 energy efficiency jobs. This economic hit is difficult, but it can be overcome with the assistance of well-placed federal support.

Utah is another Western state well-known for beautiful mountain views and wide-open wildernesses, and U.S. Representative John Curtis (R-UT) continues to be a Republican advocate for conservation. Representative Curtis is an active member of the House Natural Resources Committee, the Western Caucus, and the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus.

Utah’s third district expanded solar jobs by more than 26 percent from 2018 to 2019. The state has even put forth a voluntary renewable portfolio standard with a goal of 20 percent renewables in the state by 2025 but has also been hurt by the pandemic. Between April and May, Utah lost 3,900 clean energy jobs and 2,900 energy efficiency jobs.

Wyoming, the Cowboy State, is synonymous with picturesque horizons of America’s Western frontier, and the state’s workers have enjoyed increased clean energy employment over recent years. U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has worked to preserve the beauty of his state by advancing local clean energy initiatives.

A staunch supporter of innovation, Senator Barrasso introduced S. 383, the Utilizing Significant Emissions Technology Act, or Use-It Act. Between 2007 and 2018, Wyoming clean energy supported more than 169,000 full-time jobs for in-state workers.

Nevada, famous not just for its beauty but its 20th Century nuclear tests, is also home to Tesla’s manufacturing thanks to the efforts of U.S. Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV). A strong supporter of energy storage and a member of the Western and Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucuses, Representative Amodei helped secure the Tesla deal that has been an economic driver in the Western part of the state.

At the end of last year, Nevada had more than 33,000 clean energy jobs at the end of last year. However, it has lost almost 5,000 clean energy jobs during the shutdown, and one of the largest planned solar projects in the country—the Gemini Solar Project in Clark County—has been delayed due to the impact of the pandemic even in spite of recent approval by President Trump.

The Mountain West is a place ripe for further energy innovation. The manpower and technological know-how in the region are matched with a strong willingness to protect the area’s precious natural resources. Further investment in clean energy will help to get the U.S. West back on track before the year is out.

This is the fourth installment in a series of blogs examining different regions of the country – their natural resources and the efforts by individual Republican lawmakers helping to drive economic growth and job creation through clean energy. Check out CRES’ blog regularly and learn more at Clean Energy Forward.

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