Colorado Energy Legislation Off to a Partisan Start?
The 70th General Assembly of the State of Colorado convened for its First Regular Session on January 7, 2015 and legislators wasted no time introducing bills related to Colorado’s energy policies. While it is generally expected that the Legislature will once again take up the issue of state versus local control of fracking activities by the oil and gas industry, no bills related to that topic were introduced on the first day of the Session. Rather, two of the first bills introduced would modify Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES).
Senate Bill 15-044 would reduce investor-owned utilities’ (IOUs) RES obligation from 20% to 15% for the years 2015 and thereafter, and would eliminate IOUs’ current RES obligation of 30% renewable energy by the year 2020. The bill would, however, increase from two to three percent the amount of distributed generation IOUs must incorporate into their power supply by 2020 and thereafter. Similarly, the bill reduces the 2020 RES obligation from 20% to 15% for qualifying wholesale utilities and cooperative electric associations serving 100,000 or more meters.
Senate Bill 15-046 applies to non-IOUs (i.e., cooperative electric associations and municipally-owned utilities) and would eliminate the requirement that cooperative electric associations obtain one-half of their required distributed generation from retail distributed generation (RDG) which is defined as a renewable energy resource located on a retail customer’s site and interconnected on the customer’s side of the meter. To offset the elimination of this RDG requirement, the bill creates an incentive to install RDG by allowing each kilowatt-hour of RDG to be counted as three kilowatt-hours for purposes of RES compliance. The bill also confirms that community solar gardens, an increasingly popular form of distributed renewable generation in Colorado, may be counted as RDG for purposes of RES compliance by cooperative electric associations.
It is noteworthy that both of these RES-related bills were introduced in the Colorado Senate where Republicans hold a narrow majority. Neither bill includes a Democratic co-sponsor at this time. The lack of at least initial bipartisan support suggests an uphill battle for SB15-044 should it reach the Colorado House of Representatives where Democrats hold a majority and any effort to roll-back Colorado’s RES may be less well received. The prospects for SB15-046 may be more promising in that it does not reduce Colorado’s RES but rather is intended to create more flexibility for non-IOUs in terms of complying with their RES obligations.
Senate Bill 15-009, another bill introduced in the Colorado Senate on the first day of the Session, also has implications for Colorado energy policy. Senate Bill 15-009 creates a woody biomass grant program that would award grants to public entities to use woody biomass as a fuel source in a public building’s energy program. This bill is the latest effort to address the wildfire risk on Colorado’s forested lands while also promoting alternative energy sources.
It is anticipated that much of the General Assembly’s attention this Session will be focused on hot button issues such as tax refunds, education funding, regulation of the state’s medical and recreational marijuana industries, gun control, and school safety. Nevertheless, legislation introduced on the first day indicates that energy issues will continue to be a priority.