- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Clean energy mandate too much, REA says; Rural electric provider claims steep rise in renewable share is unfair

A plan to more than double the required share of energy from renewable sources sold by Colorado rural power providers is a load too heavy for the companies and their customers to bear, a regional utility executive said Wednesday.

The utility that serves rural homes and businesses throughout Northern Colorado says passage of Senate Bill 252, raising the renewable share from 10 percent to 25 percent, would shift an unfair burden of clean energy costs to its customers.

Moreover, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association CEO Brad Gaskill said Wednesday the bill was a “backdoor” tactic by its proponents that raises the so-called renewable portfolio standard too high – and too fast.

“The fact that this was introduced so late in the session, and it being such a critical issue, is unfair,” Gaskill said.

“It’s a backdoor job. It’s disturbing that the sponsors failed to include those who are being impacted by the bill in the stakeholder process. It’s going to impact a large number of rural Coloradans.”

Gaskill’s electric co-op serves more than 35,000 residential and business customers in the region, and its industrial customers help make it the second-largest of 18 rural electric companies that get their power from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc.

City Utilities Exempt

Representatives from Tri-State, Poudre Valley REA and other Colorado rural affiliates packed a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing room early this week to see the measure approved and sent to the Senate floor.

The bill exempts municipal utilities and their power sources, including Loveland and its provider, the Platte River Power Authority.

Tri-State officials told lawmakers that passage would lead to a 20 percent wholesale power price increase.

Requirements that power utilities raise their stake in renewable energy sources – notably solar and wind – are not new.

The state’s voters in 2004 mandated that 10 percent of power sold by Colorado’s largest providers come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Three years later, rural providers were brought into the 10 percent club through legislation that Gaskill said his and other rural electric coops supported.

The portfolio standard, the coin of the renewable energy realm, is hailed by conservationists as a necessary step toward cleaner energy and the creation of Colorado-based jobs in the “green” energy sector.

‘Deserve To Share’

“It will create new jobs and protect the health of Colorado families by encouraging cleaner energy production,” said John Nielsen, energy program director for Boulder-based conservation group Western Resource Advocates.

“Colorado is a national leader in renewable energy, and people in rural parts of the state deserve to share in that success.”

But that share has costs attached to it, Gaskill said.

The bill provides for a 2 percent annual rise in electric rates until the standard deadline of 2022. But the bill’s proponents understate its year-over-year effects, Gaskill said.

“They act like 2 percent is nothing,” he said. “But 2 percent to people on fixed income, and people who are unemployed, is not nothing. It is substantial.”

Vestas-REA link

Companies that manufacture equipment for generating power from solar and wind sources rely heavily on the standard, and on tax credits, to keep renewable energy competitive with fossil-fuel sources.

One is Vestas Wind Systems AS, the Danish wind turbine company that chose three Colorado locations including Windsor for its North American manufacturing operations.

Vestas is also one of Poudre Valley REA’s largest industrial customers, Gaskill said.

“I want to make clear that we are not against renewable energy,” Gaskill said.

“We support it, as we showed with the 2007 legislation. We were given 12 years, and we were all well on our way to meeting that requirement. Now, to raise it by 150 percent and then just give us just six years to meet that, is too much.”