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Bill to “level the playing field” for utility rates in Wyoming

RAWLINS – Senate File 71 is not a prohibition on generating renewable energy in Wyoming.

According to one of its sponsors, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, the bill’s intention is to spare the Wyoming citizenry high utility rates and maximize the state’s revenue intake.

“There is absolutely no prohibition on generating renewables in Wyoming,” Hicks said in a phone interview on Saturday. “It won’t affect the wind farm in Rawlins one iota because all of that electricity is distributed out of state.”

SF 71 seeks to put into law that each electrical utility that sells its electricity in Wyoming must procure 95 percent of its sales from “eligible generating resources” by 2018, and 100 percent by 2019. These eligible sources are defined as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, net metering systems (solar), nuclear and oil.

The bill does not explicitly state that energies not generated from those sources would be banned from the state, such as wind energy, but utility companies would have to pay a penalty if they are unable to meet the standards defined in the bill.

Hicks said renewable energies are not cost-efficient for the Wyoming consumer, and that utility rates for wind and solar power can be as much as two or three times higher than existing utility rates.

“I have no crystal ball, but today and into the foreseeable future they are more expensive,” Hicks said. “Here’s the important thing: We’ll drive our utility rates down … it’ll give Wyoming the competitive advantage … and we’ll produce all the green power they want, we’ll take the property taxes off that, and they can sell that to the people in California for (a high price).”

Hicks said that there isn’t a free market for energy, speaking to critics of the bill who might argue it is an example of the government stepping into the world of business.

“You hear these people saying Senate File 71 is bad because the government is interfering in the free market,” Hicks said. “The whole bill is designed to level the playing field (and) decrease our utility rates in the State of Wyoming.”