Governor signs renewable energy bill

Republicans irked at cost increase to rural Coloradans

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While Democratic leaders applauded Gov. John Hickenlooper for signing Senate Bill 13-252, which increases renewable energy standards for energy co-ops in the state, Republican lawmakers claimed the bill will hurt rural Coloradans.

The bill, signed June 5, will go into effect July 1 and require Colorado energy cooperatives — including Intermountain Rural Energy Association, which serves much of Douglas Company — to double their existing requirements for renewable energy from 10 percent of all energy used to 20 percent prior to 2020.

IREA currently obtains its renewable energy through a long-term purchase agreement with Xcel Energy, and according to a statement on its website cannot unilaterally increase the amount it requires from Xcel, which creates an issue.

IREA says on the site that it is a supporter of renewable energy, but it was opposed to the bill because it believes “the arbitrary imposition of a renewable requirement without regard to existing infrastructure and contracts will only lead to costly waste.”

Hickenlooper was forthright in stating the bill was “imperfect,” but in an executive order accompanying the signing of it said an advisory committee was being assembled that will work to address concerns such as the timetable for implementing the new requirements as well as protecting consumers impacted by the legislation. He said that if issues are not resolved through stakeholder engagement, there is an agreement in place that changes will be made to the legislation in the next session.

“This legislation will expand economic opportunities across Colorado through the development of wind, solar, and other innovative energy resources,” he stated in the order. “Rural areas, in particular, will benefit economically from the expansion of renewable resources because the vast majority of renewable resources are located outside of the state’s urban centers.”

Some of the jobs Hickenlooper said would be created included construction, manufacturing and mining, as well as new waste-to-energy positions.

Republicans had a different view of the bill, however, and state party Chairman Ryan Call was one of many to issue a statement, blasting the signing.

“It is clear that Gov. Hickenlooper and Sen. (John) Morse (the Democratic Senate president from Colorado Springs) are more concerned about appeasing radical environmentalists and the fringe of their party than doing what’s right for Colorado,” Call stated. “The law will raise the price of energy on everyone.”

The governor said he considered vetoing the bill, and would have done so if the rate increase, which is capped at 2 percent, was not compounded. The assertion that this legislation will levy billions in costs to rural consumers is not borne out by the facts, he said.

“For society to move forward, its people must look forward," said Morse. “This bill will help stabilize the cost of electricity in the long run, create jobs and economic activity, and limit greenhouse gas emissions. These are all good things, and I am incredibly pleased to know we have taken another step toward national leadership in the clean energy field.”

Attempts to reach representatives of IREA for comment were unsuccessful.

What the renewable energy bill does:

• Increases renewable energy standards for cooperative electric associations serving more than 100,000 meters from its current 10 percent by 2020 to 20 percent.

• Provides extra credit for new renewable resources acquired through 2015.

• Allows both methane capture and pyrolysis of solid waste to count toward the renewable energy standard, as long as the production is greenhouse gas-neutral.

• Ensures that no utility bill will increase by more than 2 percent as a result of bill.