Legislation designed to encourage future wind farms in Colorado breezed through a state Senate committee Wednesday with backing from the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy.
The bill would ease the financial burden of building new transmission lines for some utilities by making customers pay construction costs more quickly.
Backers say new power lines would encourage the development of more wind farms and other alternative-energy projects.
The legislation is considered a key component of Gov. Bill Ritter’s quest to make Colorado a national leader in renewable energy.
In testimony before the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, the bill gained support from utilities, renewable-energy advocates and environmental groups. Nobody testified against it.
“Transmission is truly the lifeblood of the 21st century that relies on reliable and affordable electricity,” said Craig Cox, director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a wind-energy industry group.
Cox said a similar law passed in Texas has produced $6 billion in renewable-energy projects for every $1 billion invested in transmission.
The Colorado bill is to be considered by the full Senate.
The bill allows the state’s two investor-owned utilities – Xcel Energy and Aquila – to pass the costs of new transmission lines to their customers while the lines are being built, instead of after they are finished.
Transmission lines cost roughly $1 million per mile.
While customers could see new charges on their monthly bills under the proposal, utility officials claim that consumers would benefit over the long term because power companies would not have to take out construction loans and bill their customers for interest payments.
The legislation addresses a particular wind-energy problem: Strong breezes suitable for wind farms tend to blow in sparsely populated areas, yet the electricity is needed primarily in high-density urban corridors.
To get wind-generated power delivered to utility customers, hundreds of miles of high-voltage transmission lines are needed. Yet most of Colorado’s transmission lines are operating near full capacity.
“This bill will help open up new wind energy in Colorado,” said state Sen. Chris Romer, a Denver Democrat.
In other energy legislation, a bill was introduced this week in the Colorado House that would double to 20 percent the amount of the state’s power that must be generated from renewable sources.
The House also is considering a bill that would establish an authority to sell bonds and make loans for transmission lines to serve renewable projects.
Staff writer Steve Raabe can be reached at 303-954-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Steve Raabe
Denver Post Staff Writer
8 February 2007
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