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Bill to Expand Renewables in Rural Colorado Awaits Governor's Signature


It looks like Colorado is set to expand the amount of renewable energy in the state once again now that Colorado Senate Bill 252 passed Colorado’s House of Representatives. The bill passed through the House on Monday, April 30 and was passed again by the Senate. It now heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) desk. The bill would expand the amount of renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal that the state’s large rural co-operative and municipal utilities must have in their electric generating portfolio to 20 percent by 2020. 

Colorado has had one the nation’s highest renewable energy standards or renewable portfolio standards since 2010 (only California and Hawaii have higher RPSs), when then Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed legislation expanding the RPS to 30 percent for the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs), Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. But rural and municipal utilities were only required to source 10 percent of their electric from renewable resources thus far. While the IOUs provide power for most of Colorado’s residents, the municipal and rural co-ops cover more of Colorado geographically. 

The RPS has led to thousands of new jobs in the solar and wind industries across the state, and despite the expansion of renewables, the state’s electric rates remain lower than in much of the nation — at 9.43 cents per kilowatt hour across all sectors in February 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Upon the bill's passage through the House, Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said, “We congratulate our Colorado Representatives and Senators who have championed nation-leading legislation to expand clean wind and solar energy to all of Colorado. With the House passing SB 252, Colorado is once again at the forefront of diversifying our energy sources and encouraging investment in clean and innovative energy to power our future.” He added, “This legislation will protect Colorado consumers by preventing price spikes on their electricity bills; and give more Coloradans access to clean wind and solar energy.”

The bill moved relatively quickly through the legislative process. It was introduced less than a month ago, but it didn’t pass through unscathed. The bill originally called for expanding the amount of renewables in rural electric co-op’s and municipal utility's generating portfolios to 25 percent. However, in effort to appease some of the bill’s opponents like Tri-State Generation, a co-op utility that provides much of the generation capacity for Colorado’s rural co-ops, the House lowered the requirement, says Chris Arend, a spokesperson for Conservation Colorado. He adds that Tri-State still opposed the amended version of the bill.

Part of the reason the SB 252 was originally set to expand the co-ops portfolio to 25 percent rather than 30 percent is because of the shortened time-frame that the rural co-ops and municipalities will have to add in more solar and wind, Colorado Renewable Energy Society CEO Lorrie McAllister, formerly said. But despite the lower requirement, Tri-State still opposed the bill, Arend says. 

Now that the bill eked through the legislature (the session closes next week), Gov. Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law later this month. 

The original article was posted on the SolarReviews blog

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