The spirit of environmental advocate Randy Udall lived on at this year’s Colorado Renewable Energy Conference—from the triumph of passing SB 252 to the theme of collaboration. There was even an award issued in his honor.
“Randy’s life goal was to instill a personal sense of responsibility for the environment in each of us,” said Colorado State Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), who received the Randy Udall award. “He understood that his individual impact would have limitations and he had to inspire an army of folks to accomplish his mission.”
Schwartz received the award for sponsoring numerous bills on energy and climate change, along with her ongoing commitment to preserving Colorado’s land, water and natural resources. “Randy Udall was a personal hero of mine and it’s humbling to be receiving an award in his memory,” she said.
Over the past several years, the two worked together on SB 252, specifically on including coal mine methane in the state's Renewable Energy Standard (RES). To recap, SB 252 is a new law that requires certain rural electric providers—those with at least 100,000 meters—to increase their use of renewable energy resources from the previous 10 percent standard to 20 percent by 2020. The law also adds two new sources of renewable energy: coal mine methane capture and pyrolysis—the burning of waste (without oxygen) to fuel steam turbine generators and create electricity.
Schwartz and Udall’s work on the bill resulted in a “highly successful and unlikely collaboration” between coal mines, the environmental community and rural utilities, Schwartz recalled. “Randy taught us an important lesson: the ability to identify mutual areas of interest while understanding those on the opposite of an issue in order to achieve a common goal,” she said.
Jim Heneghan of the Delta Montrose Electric Association, a rural co-op, provided some input on coal methane during a panel discussion. “It’s a fantastic resource," he said. "It can be a peak load resource; it can be a base load resource. They’re coal mining whether we like it or not, so we might as well capture the methane."
Like Udall had, Ron Lehr, who represents the American Wind Energy Association, stressed the need for a diversification strategy that incorporates different forms of renewable energy to achieve a better tomorrow. “If you want to build the roof higher, you’ve got to make the foundation bigger,” Lehr said. “We need demonstrations—once you demonstrate that [renewables] can work, then you can deploy at a larger scale.”
Schwartz reiterated a “disease” that Colorado Energy Office Director Jeff Ackermann defined, from which many proponents of renewable energy suffer: advocacy. “As advocates, I believe we have a mandate to complete Colorado’s energy picture by moving to a broader framework of carbon and climate," Schwartz said. "We need to now replace kilowatts of electricity with BTUs of energy, so we can incorporate all renewables into our implant structure."
Despite the achievements in the renewable energy industry, “our work has just begun,” the senator said.
Schwartz continued: “In some respects I feel it’s similar to what we felt when we lost Randy Udall at such a vibrant stage in his life. He was not done. Randy has planted a sense of responsibility in each of us—to care about our natural world around us, and to embrace a vision that includes everyone at the table for generations to come.”