Earlier this week, on June 5th, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed into law SB13-252 the “Renewable Energy Standard Retail Wholesale Methane” act. The act expands the amount of renewable energy, like wind and solar, that rural electric cooperatives must have in their generation portfolio. Under the new law large rural electric co-ops must source 20 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. The signature drew the praise of local and national environmental organizations, particularly because conservative groups of late have spent millions to repeal renewable energy programs.
In signing the bill Hickenlooper observed, “The assertion that this legislation will levy billions in costs to rural consumers is not borne out by the facts.” He added, “We know that utilities across the country have actually saved money by incorporating more renewable energy generation. Wind, for example, can cost as little as $2.75 cents per kilowatt hour, which is lower than the average cost of new natural gas generation. Renewable energy generation also offers long-term price contracts, negating the price volatility of fossil fuels.”
Hickenlooper also issued an executive order related to the bill. “This legislation will expand economic opportunities across Colorado through the development of wind, solar, and other innovative energy resources,” he wrote in the order. “Rural areas, in particular, will benefit economically from the expansion of renewable resources because the vast majority of renewable resources are located outside of the State’s urban centers. For example, this bill will expand construction and manufacturing opportunities in rural areas through large wind and solar projects and will create jobs in the newly eligible waste-to-energy and coal mine methane industries,” he said.
The order also criticized the bill, calling for more work on it in the next legislative session, related to the implementation timetable and consumer protections and called for an advisory committee to study it. Still, “The reasons for signing the legislation outweigh the reasons for vetoing the bill,” he said.
“The bill doubles the Renewable Energy Standard…for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the wholesale energy provider to most Colorado electric co-ops, and Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the largest distribution cooperative in the state,” said Colorado Renewable Energy Society Executive Director, Lorrie McAllister. “By 2020, these large energy providers will make progress toward reaching a renewable energy standard that Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy are well on their way to meeting today.”
The legislation faced an uphill battle. According to the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado’s Programs Director Anna Zawisza, “Opponents spent millions of dollars to spread misinformation about renewable energy. You may have heard the negative TV and radio ads but in the end, they weren’t enough. Coloradans want more clean energy and this bill is a step in that direction.”
“These new standards will grow Colorado’s clean energy industry and protect our clean air and water. We send a grateful ‘thank you’ to Gov. Hickenlooper for making Colorado a national leader on clean energy,” said Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Colorado Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
The Sierra Club helped organize more than 2,500 people to support the legislation. “The Sierra Club has been proud to work with the many volunteers, groups, and individuals who worked so hard to get this bill signed into law,” Kennedy-Howard said.