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Colo. governor orders transition to zero-emission vehicles

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Colo. governor orders transition to zero-emission vehicles

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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, seen speaking Jan. 8 at his inauguration, called for "widespread transportation
electrification" in one of his first acts in office.
Source: Associated Press

In one of his first acts in office, new Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Jan. 17 calling for a transition to zero-emission vehicles, a program to promote that transition and a revised plan to allocate funds available for electric-vehicle investments through Volkswagen AG's settlement over its diesel fraud scandal.

Citing his administration's goal of moving Colorado to 100% renewable electricity by 2040, which has not yet been codified into law, as well as commitments from utilities Xcel Energy Inc. and Platte River Power Authority to completely decarbonize their power portfolios by 2050 and 2030, respectively, Polis pointed to synergies between the electricity and transportation sectors.

"Because adding electric vehicles makes the operations of the electric grid more efficient and benefits ratepayers, we encourage electric utilities and the Public Utilities Commission to work towards implementing policy and programming to support widespread transportation electrification," Polis said in the order.

In addition to environmental advantages, a large-scale shift toward electric transportation would have "broad economic benefits," he added, pointing to a 2017 study that identified $43 billion in potential net savings for the state by 2050, most of which would directly benefit drivers through reduced vehicle operating costs.

To advance Colorado's new electric vehicle policies, Polis will create a working group that will collaborate with the state's Department of Public Health and Environment in developing a proposal for a zero-emission vehicle program by May, with the goal of adopting the program by Oct. 30. The working group also will help develop a zero-emission vehicle plan at the state Department of Transportation.

Utilities and clean energy advocates applauded the order.

"This executive order will ensure alignment and focus, as we seek to maximize these benefits for Colorado," a spokesman for Xcel Energy, which operates the state's largest utility, Public Service Co. of Colorado, said in an email. "We look forward to working with the new administration, stakeholders and our customers to put the right programs and policies in place as this technology matures and sales increase."

"The action by Polis is among the most important actions to date by a Mountain West leader to cut carbon pollution from transportation, the biggest source of those emissions nationally," added Noah Long and Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council in a blog post.