Sunday, February 25, 2007

Colorado Considers Bill to Greatly Expand Use of Renewable Energy

This guest posting by Hank Lacey considers an effort by Colorado legislators to greatly expand the use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity in the state. The legislation builds on Amendment 37, passed by voters in 2004. The amendment requires Colorado’s top utility companies to provide 10 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewable resources by the year 2015. Hank Lacey, a lawyer turned journalist who is currently covering the Colorado legislature for the Colorado Springs Gazette, describes the effort to boost the requirement to 20 percent by 2020. -- T.Y.

Coloradans may soon be getting alot more electricity generated from renewable sources such as the wind and the sun.

If a bill that expands the requirements of Amendment 37 is enacted, investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy and Aquila will have to produce twice as much electricity from renewable resources as Amendment 37 requires. Municipal utilities, such as Colorado Springs Utilities, and the rural electric cooperatives will be definitively brought under the umbrella of the renewable mandate for the first time.

HB 1281, which is the vehicle for these changes, passed the state House of Representatives on second reading Friday. The bill will be considered for a third and final time in the House early next week, then move on to the Senate.

The measure will require the large investor-owned utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. A portion of that will have to come from solar power. It will also require the munies and the coops to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, including a portion from the sun.

Some legislators sought to weaken the bill on the House floor Friday. One amendment offered by Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, would have specified that hydroelectric power would count as a renewable source. The bill's sponsors, Reps. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, and Rob Witwer, R-Golden, argued that the bill is intended to encourage development of new energy sources. Hydroelectricity has been a commercially viable energy source for

Another lengthy floor fight centered on continuing efforts by the state's largest rural electric cooperative, Intermountain Rural Electric Cooperative, to secure the right to "opt out" of the requirements. IREA successfully invoked that right under Amendment 37. Legislators killed that amendment, too, but only after Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, and Reps. David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, complained that HB 1281 overrides the will of IREA's customers that voted to exempt the utility from renewable energy production standards last year.

Gov. Bill Ritter said at a news conference Thursday that IREA's objection to the bill would not be a reason for him to veto it. The Colorado Rural Electric Association, an industry association of the state's rural electric cooperatives, supports the bill. So does Xcel and Colorado Springs Utilities.

HB 1281 is one of the cornerstones of the "new energy economy" promised by Ritter and the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly.

Amendment 37 was adopted by the state's voters in 2004.

-- Hank Lacey


Amelia Patterson said...

Great article Hank! I am really glad to see that this bill is moving along and the co-ops were brought into the fold.

I am also glad to see that you haven't completely dissapeared.

The future of rebates that utility companies offer, as required by Amendment 37, are of great concern to homeowners who want to add a PV system to thier homes and solar companies who install them. Was there any talk at the captital about these rebates and if they will be included in this bill?

Amendment 37 requires that a utility pay $2/watt of solar capacity to homeowners that install a grid-tied PV system. Will this be required under this new bill?

Amelia Patterson
Master's student
University of Colorado

HL said...

House bill 1281 does not have any affect either on the rebate program or the meter credit system.

In fact, another bill moving through the General Assembly would mandate that all utilities offer a credit for customers that generate their own power.

The Ritter Administration's renewable energy agenda is broad and popular at the Capitol. It aims to increase production, transmission and use of alternative sources. I don't see anything stopping that train, especially since the major investor-owned utilities and the rural electric cooperative association are on board.

Please come down to the Capitol one weekday if you have time and I'll show you around. Hope to catch up soon.

General Insurance Colorado said...

"The U.S. House of Representatives has voted in favor of the energy tax package in today's rare Saturday session providing strong incentives for solar power.

Two bills passed in today's session, H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221, both strongly supported by the SEIA and other solar industry stakeholders. The package provides additional long-term support for solar power through the extension and increase of the solar Investment Tax Credit."