Thursday, March 29, 2007

Colorado Governor Signs Renewable Energy Laws - Doubles Renewable Energy Standard to 20% by 2020

Colorado is now officially the latest addition to a growing list of states who have recently expanded their successful, existing Renewable Energy Standards.

Tuesday, Governor Bill Ritter signed into law House Bill 1281 which expands the Renewable Energy Standard enacted by Colorado voters in 2004. The bill doubles the standard enacted by voter-approved Amendment 37 from 10% by 2015 to 20% by 2020. HB 1281 passed both the House and Senate with broad support, with a 59-5 vote in the House and a 27-8 vote in the Senate.

"These new laws will improve our economic security, our environmental security and our national security," Governor Ritter said. "They will breathe new economic life into rural Colorado. They will create new jobs, and they will say to the rest of the world, 'Colorado is open for business in what will be one of the most important industries of the 21st century.'"

But Colorado has some tough competition: California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Minnesota and New Mexico all recently upped their Renewable Energy Standards as well to comparable or even higher levels. And some states that are coming later to the game are aiming big: Oregon's legislature is currently considering a 25% by 2025 standard that would put Oregon up towards the front of the pack [See previous post].

All of these states talk are competing for jobs in the growing cleantech/renewable energy field, one of the fastest growing new industries in the United States. The fierce competition to be "the Renewable Energy Capitol of the United States" is a good sign of the robust market ahead for renewable energy in the U.S.

Governor Ritter also signed into law Senate Bill 100 on Wednesday. SB 100 is a bill designed to encourage investment in the transmission necessary to bring new wind and other renewable energy to load centers in Colorado.

The Governor's office released the following fact sheets explaining HB 1281 and SB 100:

Fact Sheet for House Bill 1281 and Senate Bill 100

House Bill 1281
  • Sponsors: Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village; Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder; and Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Genesee.

  • Doubles the renewable energy standard established by voters with the 2004 passage of Amendment 37.

  • Large investor-owned utilities like Xcel must now provide 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020.

  • Requires municipal utilities and rural electric providers to achieve a renewable energy goal of 10 percent by 2020 (they had been excluded from the requirements of Amendment 37).

  • Provides a 3-to-1 credit to rural electric associations for investment in solar energy.

  • A recent study [see previous post] found HB 1281 would provide significant economic benefits, particularly to rural Colorado, by:
    o Increasing Colorado’s share of the GDP by $1.9 billion through 2020.
    o Increasing total wages paid to workers by $570 million.
    o Increasing the workforce by 4,100 person-years of employment.
    o Providing farmers, ranchers and other landowners with $50 million in lease payments for wind farms, crops and solar parks.
    o Generating $400 million in property tax revenue through 2020 to fund education and other services, particularly in rural Colorado.

  • Senate Bill 100
  • Sponsors: Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, and Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West.

  • Requires electric utilities subject to rate regulation to identify high-potential wind-energy locations by undertaking biennial reviews to designate “Energy Resource Zones” where transmission constraints hinder the delivery of electricity.

  • These utilities are then required to develop construction plans to improve transmission capacity.

  • The bill allows utilities to recover costs during construction.

  • Allows us to break the “chicken and the egg” cycle whereby wind companies don’t build turbines until there is adequate transmission capacity, and utilities don’t build transmission capacity until there are turbines.

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