Rural Renewable Energy Standard Under Attack

Contact your Senator and say thanks for defending this new law.

Below is some information from Conservation Colorado regarding the recent defeat of an effort to gut the Rural Renewable Energy Standard:

SB 252, the Rural Renewable Energy Standard Bill: The legislature passed it, the governor signed it, and a citizen’s stakeholder committee came to consensus that the law’s target of 20% by 2020 is feasible. Moreover, utilities across the West are switching to renewables due to their cost effective ability to save consumers money. Recent proposals to repeal or weaken the law are all politics, and Coloradans deserve better. Let’s stop the politics and get to work for Colorado.

The Colorado Energy Story:

2004: Coloradans go to the polls to make Colorado the first state in the nation to establish a renewable energy standard (RES) of 10% by ballot initiative. Several states – Washington and Missouri – have followed Colorado’s lead and passed renewable energy standards by voter ballot initiative. 29 states and the District of Columbia now have renewable energy standards.

2008-2010: Colorado has amended the RES three times since the ballot initiative was passed. PSCo (Xcel) and Black Hills must meet a 30% standard by 2020. Colorado’s investment in clean energy sector flourished, creating tens of thousands of jobs and was widely regarded as buffering Colorado’s economy during the 2008 recession.

2013: The most recent of the amendments is SB 13-252 which the Colorado legislature passed and Governor Hickenlooper signed into law last year; the law applies a 20% standard to TriState G&T – the wholesale electric provider for all but four Colorado co-ops- and Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), the one co-op that has more than 100,000 meters. The new law demonstrates to businesses and investors alike, Colorado’s commitment to leading on clean energy production and innovation.

SB 252 Advisory Committee:

Upon signing the SB 252 into a law, Governor Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order tasking a diverse group of stakeholders to examine the law, particularly its effectiveness and feasibility. The group included of representatives from rural electric wholesale providers (Tri-State G&T), large and small agricultural producers, the environmental community, electric resource planners, small co-ops, large co-ops (IREA) and renewable energy providers. The traditionally divergent group of Committee Members came to consensus on three critical items:

  1. Tri-State and IREA achieving the 20% RES by 2020 IS feasible
  2. The 2% rate cap, designed to protect consumers, is real and effective. It does NOT compound each year as suggested by certain groups that originally opposed the bill
  3. If a utility exceeds the 2% rate cap in trying to meet the new standard, then their standard is reduced to what their rate cap allows.

Cost Effective Resources:

  • Advancing clean renewable energy can reduce our reliance on dirty energy, and protect Coloradans serviced by co-ops by shielding them from future price spikes associated with rising and volatile fossil fuel costs. Renewable sources provide a consistent, low cost, and reliable supply of energy to power Colorado into the future.
  • Utilities around the U.S. are increasingly turning to wind as their new source of power generation due to its low and predictable costs. Investment bank Morgan Stanley reported they were seeing price competition between wind and coal in windy areas of the country for wind so attractive that they signed up for more wind generation than originally planned.
  • Xcel energy, Colorado’s largest utility, is on pace to exceed their higher 30% RES. Xcel Energy has proven that 30% renewable energy procurement is feasible and cost effective and estimates that it is compliant with its RES obligations through 2028.
  • In addition to wind being cost effective, Xcel recently announced plans to pursue utility scale solar projects in Colorado purely due to their low costs. The utility recently chose large wind and solar projects in their resource plans for future load growth not because of the 30% renewable energy standard, but because both are the most cost-effective resources.

Abundant Supply:

  • Colorado possesses some of the greatest wind and solar potential in the country with enough potential blowing through the Centennial State to power the grid 24 times over. Colorado’s solar potential is equally as impressive with 300 days of sunshine a year.
  • The linked to map here illustrates the best solar and wind potential in Colorado resides in rural areas – a testament to the promise SB 252 holds for rural Colorado economy, jobs, and consumers.

Too Soon:

  • SB 252 first officially became law on July 1, 2013. The date by which Tri-State G&T and Intermountain Rural Electric Association must achieve their 20% renewable energy standard is January 1, 2020. As of the beginning of the 2014 legislative session, the law is less than seven months into the 2020 timeline. Put another way, the law is 6/78 of the way to the close of the timeline. With the law barely half way into its first year in a six plus year timeline, it is far too early to judge whether or not it has flaws.
  • SB 252 added coal mine methane capture and pyrolysis as eligible technologies towards meeting the RES. After lengthy discussions in past sessions about expanding the RES to include these technologies, SB 252 accomplishes just that. Given the rural location of many of these newly eligible sources, SB 252 is poised to generate economic development and job growth in rural Colorado.

Talking Points against HB 14-1138

Job-killing and environmentally destructive

What the current RES does on hydroelectricity: Makes new hydro facilities with a rating of 10 MW or less and hydro in existence on January 1, 2005 with a rating of 30 MW or less eligible for RES benefit.

What HB 14-1138 would do: Makes hydro of any size and any vintage (existing and new) eligible for RES benefits:

  • The intent of the RES is to encourage new environmentally-friendly technologies that are not well-integrated into the grid. Large hydro is a well-developed technology that is well-integrated into the grid, and it is decidedly not environmentally-friendly.
  • Tri-State purchases about 15% of the energy it re-sells to its co-op members from WAPA, which markets power from federal hydro facilities. Making existing large hydro of any vintage, including pumped-storage, eligible for RES benefits would mean that Tri-State would have to do NOTHING more to meet the 20% standard in the RES. Neither would its co-op members. Similar effects would be seen on the IREA and PSCo system.
  • The result is that the new jobs and economic growth on the Tri-State system under the existing RES would be eliminated under HB 14-1138
  • As to new large hydro, the era of large hydro projects is over, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent already to mitigate the environmental effects of existing large hydro facilities from which Colorado co-ops take power. Where would new large hydro facilities be built? Dinosaur National Park? Grand Canyon?
  • HB-14-1138 would also make pumped storage hydro eligible for RES benefits. Depending on electric system conditions, pumped storage hydro is an excuse to use more fossil fuel to pump uphill and to do so inefficiently.

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