The march toward overturning Democratic directives continued Tuesday, with the Republican-controlled state Senate giving initial approval to a bill that rolls back renewable energy standards.
Senate Bill 44 would cut in half the 30 percent renewable requirement that investor-owned utilities, such as Xcel, would have to meet by 2020. It also would reduce the standard for rural electric associations from 20 percent to 15 percent from 2020 onward.
“We want to make sure we’re not pushing the envelope so far that we’re hurting consumers, especially the rural consumers,” said the sponsor, Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.
Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, argued that renewable energy standards have been a “job creator” in Colorado, with more than 22,000 Coloradans working in the clean-tech industry.
If we really are concerned about the middle class and costs, we should be voting ‘no’ on this bill,” he said.
The Senate could take an official vote on the measure as early as Wednesday. The bill then would head to the Democrat-controlled House.
Colorado has been at the forefront of renewable energy since 2004, when then-Congressman Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Republican House Speaker Lola Spradley teamed up to push a ballot measure that required utilities with more than 40,000 customers to generate 10 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and some hydroelectric sources by 2015. The current standard was 2 percent.
Voters approved Amendment 37 and that same year put Democrats in charge of the legislature for the first time since 1962. Various renewable-energy bills followed, including one in 2007 that increased the standards.
Then-Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, was one of the original co-sponsors of the 2007 measure, and then-Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, added his name as a co-sponsor after he voted for House Bill 1281. Both are now in the Senate, but they said their support of the current bill doesn’t make them flip-floppers, as Democrats claimed.
Roberts pointed out she voted against some of the subsequent energy measures, including the controversial 2013 measure that required rural co-ops to double their renewable-energy standard to 20 percent by 2020.
“I thought we were going to do this at a reasonable pace, but the Democrats kept doubling it,” Roberts said. “I’ve tried to tap the brake with them, particularly during an economic recession.”
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