Renewable energy mandate gets initial OK
DENVER — A bill to require rural electric associations to use more renewable energy won a preliminary nod in the Colorado House on Friday.
But instead of increasing the state’s renewable energy standard on rural electric associations to 25 percent by 2020, SB252 was amended to only raise it to 20 percent.
Other power suppliers, such as Xcel Energy, are required to obtain 30 percent of the electricity they supply by that time.
Though the measure is aimed at large associations, because it also targets generation and transmission companies from whom they purchase power, customers of smaller electric cooperatives also could see an increase in their power rates.
As a result, opponents said it goes too far because most of those small cooperatives are located in rural parts of the state, where unemployment rates are higher than those on the Front Range.
“The very people that we claim to be helping around here are going to be hurt the most,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Glenwood Springs. “(Rural) people are now going to be taxed to prop up radical environmental values that they do not subscribe to. Why would we do that?”
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said that won’t happen.
He said the bill includes a rate increase cap that will keep REA customers’ utility bills from increasing by no more than 2 percent.
Ferrandino also said that if rates needed to be higher to offset any additional cost of providing power from renewable energy, the associations are allowed to back off from the 20 percent standard until they can keep those costs down.
Still, rural lawmakers, all Republicans, argued that the measure was an attack on rural parts of the state.
Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, said people in his district would be hard hit by the measure, even though it would have no impact on Grand Valley Power, which gets its electricity from Xcel, and the cooperative that serves part of Wright’s district in eastern Delta County favors the bill under certain circumstances.
The bill would impact all associations that get their power from the Tri-State Transmission and Generation Association, which includes the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and Holy Cross Energy, which serves customers in Garfield County.
Regardless, the Delta-Montrose governing board last week approved a resolution favoring the bill, but under the provision that it allow smaller associations to generate renewable energy from local sources.
The measure also allows for methane gas captured from coal mines to be eligible to be included under the renewable energy standard, a point that Sen. Randy Baumgardner found more than irritating.
The Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, whose district includes Garfield County, has been trying to do that very thing for the past two years.
Earlier this session, a measure to do that was killed on a party-line vote in the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.
The bill requires a final House vote, which could come as early as Monday.
If approved, it will have to head back to the Senate to sign off on changes to it before it can head to the governor.