Report: New power lines key to meeting Colorado CO2 goals |

Report: New power lines key to meeting Colorado CO2 goals

Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) – Colorado needs new, well-planned transmission lines to meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020, a state report says.

The report by the Governor’s Energy Office says existing policies will allow Colorado to reach about 40 percent of the goal in Gov. Bill Ritter’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels.

There is a lack of capacity on the high-voltage transmission lines where Colorado’s best renewable energy resources are found, according to the report. It suggests regulatory changes to speed up construction of power lines for large-scale renewable energy projects, increased natural gas production, onsite renewable energy production and improved energy efficiency.

There is broad agreement that a better transmission system is needed to distribute electricity from the region’s vast renewable energy sources, including wind and power, said Tom Plant, director of the Governor’s Energy Office.

Members of the Obama administration have pledged to look at streamlining the permit process for transmission projects to help Western states expand renewable energy. The Western Governors’ Association and other states are studying statewide and regional approaches that include mapping out where the resources and customers are.

What makes Colorado’s report different, Plant said, is the approach. The report, funded mostly by a $397,000 Department of Energy grant, starts with the targeted carbon-reduction levels and explores the energy demands, kinds of power and the type and location of transmission that will be needed to meet the goals.

“Gov. Ritter has talked about both here in Colorado and before Congress that what we need to do as a country is tie our climate goals with our energy policy,” Plant said, adding the state is on pace to exceed the targets in its renewable energy standard.

A 2007 state law doubled a voter-approved renewable energy standard. Colorado’s investor-owned utilities must get 20 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable energy sources by 2020. The minimum requirement for rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities is 10 percent.

The report makes clear that meeting the goals by 2020 will be tougher with the existing transmission system.

“Transmission is certainly part of the equation in trying to get renewable resources to market,” said Jim Van Someren, spokesman for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

Colorado-based Tri-State, which delivers power to rural cooperatives in four states, has run into opposition to a new power line it wants to build with Xcel Energy. It would provide electricity to south-central Colorado and ship solar-generated power out of the San Luis Valley.

Tri-State considered concerns about climate change when it announced plans earlier this year to focus less on coal, Van Someren said. “The issue is at the top of the radar and won’t be going away any time soon,” he added.

The EPA said Monday that greenhouse gases blamed for climate change threaten public health and the environment, considered a prelude to the agency’s regulation of emissions.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest provider of electricity, said it is already following several of the state report’s recommendations.

“Transmission to connect renewable resources to the grid is key to meeting Colorado’s renewable portfolio standard and Climate Action Plan goals,” Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Henley said.

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