Colorado Republicans want to roll back the state’s renewable energy mandates, and with greater numbers in the state Legislature this year – along with falling energy prices – party leaders are feeling more confident about their chances.
A group of Republican senators wasted no time proposing changes, introducing a bill on the session’s first day that would lower the amount of renewable energy sources required of Colorado electricity providers.
For larger utilities, which serve most Colorado residents, renewable energy mandates would drop from 30 percent by 2020 to 15 percent by 2020.
For rural electricity co-ops, the renewable energy requirement would drop from 20 percent by 2020 to 15 percent by 2020.
Leading the effort is Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction. He said Colorado’s renewable-energy standards are too high, and that promises by Democrats in recent years that the stricter standards wouldn’t burden consumers have been broken.
Colorado residents paid an average of 11.74 cents per kilowatt hour in October, the most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Energy. That was below the national average of 12.58 cents per kilowatt hour, but Republican critics of the standards say renewable energy mandates are still a burden.
“It’s being paid for by the ratepayers, not the utilities,” Scott said. “And, quite frankly, if it’s such a great idea, the companies should build these systems. It shouldn’t be done on the backs of the ratepayers.”
The top Republican in the House, Rep. Brian DelGrosso, talked about renewable energy when laying out his party’s agenda for the year.
“Oil, natural gas and coal not only provide clean, affordable and reliable power, but are economic drivers in many communities in Colorado,” DelGrosso said. “We can develop renewable energy and use our current natural resources at the same time.”
The renewable energy standards were established by voters in 2004 and have been strengthened over the years by Democratic governors and legislatures. Two years ago, Democrats upgraded the requirement for rural electricity co-ops, doubling their renewable energy mandate from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2020.
Democrats and environmental activists insist the GOP proposal stands no chance.
“It’s important to diversify Colorado’s energy portfolio,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat and a sponsor of the 2013 renewable energy hike for rural utilities.
Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said his group isn’t worried the renewable energy mandates are going down. He called the move to wind and solar energy “incredibly popular” with consumers.
Republicans counter that falling energy prices give them a better argument this year. The price of U.S. crude oil fell to its lowest in nearly six years earlier this week.
“Look at the cost of energy right now,” Scott said. “If we have such an abundance of energy, there’s really absolutely no reason to go to that extreme.”