New bill would expand renewable energy standards to rural electricity co-ops
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — New legislation proposed by Colorado lawmakers could help refocus the energy debate by shifting more demand to renewable sources.
Under the Ritter administration, Colorado took significant steps to move toward renewable sources, but that momentum has faltered under Gov. Hickenlooper, widely seen as tilting toward the fossil fuel industry.
Senate Bill 252 would expand Colorado’s renewable energy standard by raising the percentage of retail electricity sales that must be achieved from renewable energy resources by cooperative electric associations that provide service to 100,000 meters or more from 10 percent to 25 percent starting in 2020.
The bill could also help diversify Colorado’s energy sources by facilitating capture of escaped methane from active and inactive coal mines.
“In a number of ways, our state is defined by our diverse environment. It sustains us, and provides Coloradans with work in farming, water projects, outdoor sports, and several other areas. This legislation builds upon that, and will provide new jobs in the energy sector,” said Senate Pres. John Morse (D-Colo. Springs).
Supporters of the bill said it will help give rural Coloradans increased access to solar, wind and other clean energy, moving the state one step closer to having a comprehensive and robust statewide clean energy strategy. (Metro area investor-owned utilities are well on their way to meeting a 30 percent renewable energy requirement already.)
According to a statement from the Colorado Senate majority office, he bill would also:
- Removes preferences for Colorado-based resources and instead gives ‘extra credit’ for all resources acquired through 2015 to jump start projects and spur early investment.
- Facilitate the generation of local home grown energy sources by requiring rural electrical cooperatives to generate a small slice of their existing energy requirement from local projects – such as small wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. (Investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy are currently required to generate 3 percent of total electric sales from smaller distributed projects.)
- Increase opportunities to capture vented methane gas from active and inactive coal mines, helping to reduce dangerous emissions of a potent greenhouse gas and providing new energy sources and economic development opportunities for rural communities.
“The renewable industry has responded to Colorado’s favorable renewable energy policies with significant investments in electricity generation projects and manufacturing facilities, employing nearly 10,000 Coloradans today,” said Sarah Propst, director of the Interwest Energy Alliance. “Despite past growth, there are barriers to future market growth in Colorado. Passage of this bill will ensure that Colorado remains a vibrant place to do business for the clean energy industry.”
“In poll after poll, Coloradans have consistently supported expanding the generation of renewable energy, strongly preferring it over developing other fossil fuel sources,” said Pete Maysmith, director of Conservation Colorado. “This legislation is the next step forward for Colorado’s renewable energy legacy. By increasing and expanding access to clean renewable energy to all parts of Colorado we can help create good paying Colorado jobs, lessn our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, and move our State towards a clean renewable energy future.”