EN­ERGY OF­FICE PUSHES TOWARD RE­NEW­ABLES

En­ergy di­rec­tor Will Toor to drive push toward re­new­ables, elec­tric cars

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Judith Kohler

Di­rec­tor look­ing at “bold goals” from Gov. Po­lis.

For Will Toor, it’s an ex­cit­ing time to be on the front lines of en­ergy and trans­porta­tion is­sues.

Drop­ping prices are en­cour­ag­ing util­i­ties of all sizes to switch to wind and so­lar. Op­tions are in­creas­ing for driv­ers who want to go elec­tric.

For six years, Toor worked on those is­sues as trans­porta­tion pro­gram di­rec­tor at the South­west En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Project, as a mem­ber of the Colorado Air Qual­ity Con­trol Com­mis­sion, as a Boul­der County com­mis­sioner and as Boul­der mayor. He has taken the helm at the Colorado En­ergy Of­fice at a time when changes in en­ergy and trans­porta­tion are among the top agenda items of a new gover­nor.

“Gov. (Jared) Po­lis has ar­tic­u­lated some bold goals around clean en­ergy and cli­mate change, with the goal of 100 per­cent clean en­ergy in the elec­tric sec­tor by 2040,” Toor said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

On Toor’s fourth day on the job, Po­lis signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der reaf­firm­ing the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal of hav­ing nearly 1 mil­lion elec­tric ve­hi­cles on Colorado roads by 2030.

How­ever, the or­der makes a sig­nif­i­cant change in the 2018 Colorado Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle Plan by di­rect­ing that tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to re­place older gas- and diesel-fu­eled trucks and fleet ve­hi­cles be used only for elec­tric ve­hi­cles — not newer diesel and propane-fu­eled ve­hi­cles, as orig­i­nally al­lowed. The money comes from the state’s nearly $70 mil­lion share of the na­tional set­tle­ment with Volk­swa­gen over al­le­ga­tions that it mod­i­fied soft­ware to cheat on emis­sions tests.

“I do be­lieve it’s a very strate­gic in­vest­ment,” Toor said. “I think we’re on the thresh­old of ma­jor mar­ket in­no­va­tions where the medium- and heavy-duty ve­hi­cle fleet may be able to move toward elec­tri­fi­ca­tion quite rapidly.”

Toor also thinks there will be plenty of op­tions for Colorado driv­ers if the state Air Qual­ity Con­trol Com­mis­sion adopts a rule based on Cal­i­for­nia’s re­quire­ment that a cer­tain per­cent­age of ve­hi­cles sold in the state be elec­tric.

The Colorado Au­to­mo­bile Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion isn’t reas- sured. The trade group says 75 per­cent of the ve­hi­cles sold in the state are trucks and sports util­ity ve­hi­cles, and there aren’t a lot of those yet.

The as­so­ci­a­tion is su­ing to re­peal tougher ve­hi­cle fuel-ef­fi­ciency stan­dards ap­proved in late 2018 and has pledged to speak out if an elec­tric-ve­hi­cle stan­dard is con­sid­ered.

“I un­der­stand their con­cerns,” Toor said, “but it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that when we talk about 75 per­cent of new ve­hi­cles be­ing trucks, that ac­tu­ally in­cludes ev­ery­thing from small crossovers up through pickup trucks.”

Man­u­fac­tur­ers plan to add more elec­tric SUVs to their line­ups, Toor said, so there should be more choices by the time the Colorado stan­dard would take ef­fect. Hav­ing an elec­tric-ve­hi­cle re­quire­ment on the books will en­cour­age au­tomak­ers to of­fer a wider ar­ray of ve­hi­cles in Colorado, he said.

An As­so­ci­ated Press story say­ing cold weather can tem­po­rar­ily sap an elec­tric ve­hi­cle’s power, re­duc­ing its range by more than 40 per­cent, shouldn’t be a big con­cern, said Heath­eryn Hig­gins, Colorado En­ergy Of­fice spokes­woman. Cold weather is more of an is­sue with the first gen­er­a­tion of elec­tric ve­hi­cles, and the state’s com­mit­ment to build­ing more pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions will help al­le­vi­ate driv­ers’ “range anx­i­ety,” she said.

Toor ac­knowl­edges that bat­ter­ies for elec­tric ve­hi­cles and stor­age come with their own en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems. The min­ing of met­als and min­er­als used to make bat­ter­ies can cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant, neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. Dis­posal of bat­ter­ies cre­ates prob­lems with the toxic waste.

“There’s no free lunch. Ev­ery form of en­ergy has im­pacts,”

Toor said. “But when you com­pare the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of lithium bat­ter­ies to the im­pacts of burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, I think it’s a much smaller im­pact.”

Work­ing to ex­tend the life of bat­ter­ies and ef­fec­tive re­cy­cling ef­forts will be im­por­tant, Toor said.

While in­ter­est in elec­tric cars is ris­ing, there’s even more mo­men­tum to boost the amount of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by re­new­able en­ergy sources, Toor said. Dra­mat­i­cally de­clin­ing prices for wind and so­lar power and bat­ter­ies to store that power are big rea­sons.

Xcel En­ergy Colorado, the state’s largest elec­tric util­ity, is re­tir­ing two coal- fired plants early and in­tends to in­crease re­new­able en­ergy sources to 55 per­cent of its sup­ply mix by 2026. It’s work­ing to cut its car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions to zero by 2050.

City-owned util­i­ties and ru­ral elec­tric co­op­er­a­tives in Colorado have set goals of cut­ting car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions and ex­pand­ing the use of re­new­able en­ergy sources.

Amy Oliver Cooke of the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute, a Colorado lib­er­tar­ian think tank and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, would like state pol­icy to fo­cus more on de­cen­tral­ized “mi­cro” elec­tric grids, which she be­lieves would “em­power peo­ple rather than en­rich Xcel En­ergy.”

“Of­ten­times Gov. Po­lis and Will Toor are well-in­ten­tioned, but my con­cern is that I think they’re ask­ing the wrong ques­tions,” said Cooke, di­rec­tor of the En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Cen­ter at the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute. “In 2050, will the grid be pow­ered 100 per­cent by in­dus­trial wind and util­ity-scale so­lar and bat­ter­ies? The ques­tion we should be ask­ing is: Will we still have a mas­sive, cen­tral­ized grid with be­he­moth power plants?”

Cooke also won­ders if dis­cus­sions of en­ergy use will in­clude look­ing at nu­clear power.

“If you want car­bon-free power on de­mand, nu­clear has to be on the table,” she said.

Mov­ing for­ward, Toor said the en­ergy of­fice will meet with com­mu­nity mem­bers and en­gage a va­ri­ety of stake­hold­ers. Util­i­ties and in­dus­tries of all types, auto man­u­fac­tur­ers and deal­ers and lo­cal govgy

“Of­ten­times Gov. Po­lis and Will Toor are well-in­ten­tioned, but my con­cern is that I think they’re ask­ing the wrong ques­tions.”

ern­ments will be im­por­tant part­ners, he added.

A ma­jor fo­cus of the of­fice is en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, and Toor said he wants to work with the oil and gas, build­ing and other in­dus­tries in that area. A blog by the South­west En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Project, Toor’s for­mer em­ployer, cites fed­eral data say­ing re­cent re­duc­tions in car­bon diox­ide emis­sions na­tion­wide has re­sulted from en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, which drives down de­mand for elec­tric­ity.

The en­ergy of­fice has launched a pro­gram aimed at help­ing large in­dus­trial fa­cil­i­ties im­prove their en­ergy man­age­ment to re­duce use and costs.

With oil and gas, the bulk of the state’s in­ter­ac­tion with the in­dus­try is through the Colorado Oil and Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion and the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Toor said. How­ever, he sees op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with the in­dus­try on in­creas­ing the ef­fi­ciency of its op­er­a­tions.

The ap­point­ment of Toor as di­rec­tor of the state ener- of­fice “gives me great faith in what can be ac­com­plished,” said Suzanne Jones, Boul­der mayor and the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Eco-Cy­cle. She has known Toor since he was di­rec­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter. Toor, who has a doc­tor­ate in physics, served with Jones on the board of the Colorado En­vi­ron­men­tal Coali­tion, now Con­ser­va­tion Colorado.

“I don’t al­ways agree with him, but I’m al­ways im­pressed by the in­tel­lec­tual rigor he brings to is­sues and his thought­ful­ness,” Jones said. “He’s able to ex­plain is­sues and bring peo­ple to­gether around com­mon val­ues.”

Amy Oliver Cooke, di­rec­tor of the En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Cen­ter at the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute.

AAron On­tiveroz, The Den­ver Post

“I think we’re on the thresh­old of ma­jor mar­ket in­no­va­tions where the medium- and heavy-duty ve­hi­cle fleet may be able to move toward elec­tri­fi­ca­tion quite rapidly,” Colorado en­ergy di­rec­tor Will Toor said.

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