A new report entitled Western Grid 2050: Contrasting Futures, Contrasting Fortunes examines two very different energy investment pathways facing the 11 Western states: business-as-usual or a new, clean-energy trajectory. The report finds that with intentional policymaking and planning today, the West can successfully make the transition to a clean-energy economy that will deliver benefits in employment, the environment and public health for decades to come. The report was released by the Western Grid Group (WGG), which promotes renewable energy transmission, with support from the Western Clean Energy Advocates (WCEA), a broad alliance of more than 25 renewable energy industry, environmental, tribal, and public health organizations and regulatory experts. Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter joined the advocacy groups in calling for Western state leadership and regional collaboration to achieve the report’s vision. “In my time as Governor, Colorado saw tremendous benefit from our commitment to clean energy,” Ritter said. “I call on Western state policymakers to similarly prioritize clean energy and to reach across state lines to help build a stronger energy future for the West. We can’t afford to wait for Washington, nor should we.” Bill Ritter Introduces the Clean Energy Vision from Western Grid Group on Vimeo. More than $200 billion will be invested in the Western electricity system over the next two decades, as aging infrastructure is replaced to meet the country’s growing energy needs. Western Grid 2050 is intended to provide a detailed analysis of the business-as-usual and clean-energy paths, to Westerners make informed choices. “It is time to rethink our grid,” said report author Carl Linvill, Director of Integrated Energy Analysis and Planning at the Aspen Environmental Group, a consulting services business. “Advances in information, communications and clean energy technologies have opened the opportunity to overcome the barriers of 20th century grid technology, and transition to a 21st century clean-energy economy in the West. Retooling the infrastructure and changing the way we use will require a serious commitment, but the transition is achievable through deliberate policy, planning and investment decisions.” Dave Olsen, managing director of Western Grid Group, said, “Our diverse coalition of industry associations, conservation groups, and regional clean energy advocates has come together to ensure that decision-makers and the public understand the opportunities we have to create a more secure and sustainable energy future—and understand the costs and risks of continuing to rely on coal and gas.” The report details the energy resource mixes and grid operations of contrasting cases in 2030 and 2050. Business-as-usual (BAU) cases assume continued dependence on legacy resources, infrastructure, and grid operation to meet Western electricity needs. Under that scenario, renewable technologies are only deployed to meet current mandates, efficiency measures are modest, and the remainder of the region’s power needs is met with traditional resources such as coal, nuclear, and large hydroelectricity plants. Clean energy vision (CEV) cases assume that efficiency, demand response, and distributed (or small-scale) renewable generation are pursued aggressively, that a transition away from coal is made, and that large-scale, renewable power plants fill the gap. CEV cases also assume increased electrification of the West’s transportation system, as well as operational changes and advanced technology grid upgrades to facilitate regional coordination and improve resource allocation. The report itemizes advantages it sees in the CEV scenario include: significantly more direct investment in high job-creating infrastructure development and operation jobs; increased energy reliability and security; reduction of the direct environmental impact of power supply; achievement with manageable impact on Western lands; improvement of public health; and cost savings for consumers, except “in the unlikely case that natural gas and carbon prices stay low for the next 20 years.” The report is the first in a suite of materials from WGG and WCEA that will propose sustained, orderly transition to clean energy across the West. Next month, the two organizations will release Clean Energy Vision Policies, which they say will identify both new policies and those already in use that can be expanded. David Hill is group editorial director of Colorado Energy News, where this article first appeared. It is republished here with permission.