The Colorado House on Tuesday passed a bill that raised the renewal energy standard (RES) for rural Colorado. The bill requires that Tri-state Generation and Transmission and electrical coops must obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Prior to passage of SB252, rural utilities were only required to get 10% of their power from renewable sources.
The bill passed on a 37-27 vote despite strong opposition from rural organizations and some unions. The legislation expands opportunities for the production of local homegrown energy, and encourages the generation of energy from other alternative sources.
Conservation Colorado was one of many environmental groups that supported the legislation. Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado issued a statement after the vote:
“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,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado.
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. By taking advantage of our abundant sunshine and persistent winds, we can generate cleaner energy to reduce air pollution, improve public health, and do our part to tackle climate change for future generations.”
Colorado voters approved a ballot measure in 2004 requiring utilities to obtain 20% of their power from renewable sources. Later the legislature voted twice to extend it to 30%. However the legislation only required rural utilities to obtain 10% of their power from renewable sources. It had other special interest carve outs, so that in reality only about 12% of the state’s electricity is coming from wind or solar energy. SB 252 fixes much of that.
Republicans maintain the bill is another example of the Democratic-controlled legislature’s indifference to rural Colorado. “Of all those bills, I personally think this is the worst,” Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale told the Denver Post. “This bill will not create jobs in rural Colorado, despite the claims.”
As the Denver Post reported, Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, said the rural area he represents supports the bill. He read a letter from the Durango mayor in support. Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said the gloom and doom arguments from Republicans — “the parade of the horribles,” as she called suggestions about coal mines closing and such — about earlier renewable standards haven’t come to fruition.
Opponents of the legislation have been blanketing the state with TV and radio ads, but they did not have an impact on the vote.
SB-252 significantly increases Colorado’s commitment to small scale, homegrown renewable energy such as rooftop solar and community wind farms. It also includes innovative provisions to capture climate damaging methane gas from coal mines and the generation of power from municipal solid waste.
The bill must go back to the Senate to concur with changes made in the House. It previously passed the Senate after a contentious debate, and the Senate should agree to House amendments. It is expected that the Governor will sign the legislation. Now the rest of the country needs to catch up.
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