Colorado legislation would create higher standard for electricity suppliers |

Colorado legislation would create higher standard for electricity suppliers

Julie Sutor
Summit County correspondent
Grand County, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – Large utility companies in Colorado could be held to a higher standard when it comes to renewable energy.

State lawmakers are crafting legislation that would require large electricity suppliers to generate at least 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy.

The proposed legislation would apply to Xcel Energy, which provides electricity to Summit County.

“Ski Country is going to be on the front lines of the effects of climate change,” said Pam Kiely, program director for Environment Colorado, an environmental advocacy group. “This is the No. 1 way we’re going to be able to cut down on our state’s global warming pollution. And increasing the renewable energy standard is the best way to ensure Colorado continues to lead the country toward a new energy future.”

The state already requires electric utilities to meet a renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020. Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said his company is on target to meet that goal five years early.

“We believe it’s feasible to get to the 30-percent level, with or without legislation,” Stutz said.

Stutz said the company wouldn’t support any new charges on customers’ utility bills.

Lawmakers are collaborating with Xcel, other electricity providers, renewable energy companies, environmental groups and the Governor’s Energy Office to work out the details of the legislation. The bill is among Gov. Ritter’s top priorities for the 2010 legislative session.

“In principle, I support what they’re trying to accomplish, and they have our largest utility on board, which is terrific,” said state Rep. Christine Scanlan, who represents Summit County.

Scanlan said she is especially interested in the possibility that biomass energy might be included under the renewable-energy umbrella. If so, that could have significant implications for dealing with the mountain pine beetle infestation, which has affected about 2 million acres of Colorado’s forests.

State Sen. Dan Gibbs echoed Scanlan’s sentiments, and said he “would work hard to make sure biomass is an option.”

Kiely said the proposed policy would have positive economic impacts as well as environmental benefits.

“In the last five years, we’ve gone from 0 to 60 on clean energy, creating tens of thousands of jobs in our state. Solar and wind have been the bright spot in our state’s economy, and increasing the standard to 30 percent will ensure that Colorado remains open for business,” Kiely said.

She also said that adding more renewables to electric utilities’ portfolios could have price-stabilizing effects, helping to buffer against price spikes in fossil fuels.

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