A Democratic bill to boost the renewable energy standard in rural Colorado is being rushed through the legislature. Its sponsors should slow down and consider making it less onerous.
We have long championed renewables and continue to be supportive of efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
And we favor increasing the renewable standard – though not as much, or as quickly, as Senate Bill 252’s backers would like.
The bill was crafted by Democrats and environmentalists without input those whom it impacts: the state’s second-largest utility and rural electric co-ops with more than 100,000 customers. That should be addressed.
Coloradans in 2004 voted to require investor-owned utilities to obtain 10 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2015. The current standard – 30 percent by 2020 – was agreed to in 2010. A 2007 law requires the co-ops and their utility supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, to meet a 10 percent renewable standard by 2020.
SB 252, which was approved on a party-line vote in a Senate committee Monday, would increase the standard to 25 percent by 2020.
The six-year timeline is one issue that gives us pause. Another is cost.
Officials from the rural co-ops and Tri-State told us they are on their way to meeting the 10 percent standard, but pointed out they still largely rely on hydroelectric power, which isn’t viewed as renewable, and energy from coal-fired power plants.
Because they weren’t involved in drafting the bill, Tri-State quickly calculated it would cost them between $2 billion and $4 billion to meet the new standard. The figure may be high, but it is not unreasonable to assume the company will need to make considerable investments over the next six years to meet the 25 percent requirement.
The bill includes a 2 percent retail rate cap as a means to protect against onerous rate increases, but testimony Monday left us with the impression that sponsors must do more to ensure it is iron-clad.
Given the financial uncertainty and the potential economic impact on rural residents and businesses, we think supporters of the bill should consider lowering the proposed standard or extending the time frame.
We support the notion of bringing rural co-ops and Tri-State more in line with the renewable standards (and rate increases) that a majority of Coloradans have been paying for over the past decade.
But jamming a bill through the legislature without having a better understanding of its potential impacts strikes us as unnecessary and very likely unwise.