Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a new bill (HB12-1315) that was passed Wednesday by the state Senate to create a renamed and refocused governor's energy unit. The Colorado Office of Energy Development would emphasize both traditional and renewable energy resources.

State lawmakers specifically wanted an office that supported the development of all forms of energy -- not just renewables. The Senate approved the bill by a 35-0 vote; the measure drew only one dissenting vote in the lower house when it was passed there last month. The proposal was sponsored by state Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver).

Becker said he worked closely with the associate director of the current energy office, and he reiterated to local news media that Hickenlooper's administration supported the move. Becker called the measure "an enormous bill for Colorado."

The measure also was supported by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).

Under the new law, the energy office will promote Colorado-based clean and innovative energy solutions that include traditional and renewable energy sources. The renamed unit also will strike references developed by the previous administration of Gov. Bill Ritter, emphasizing a "new energy economy."

The law also changes the way renewable and fossil fuel projects receive funding -- restricting state severance tax dollars to traditional energy projects and making renewable projects dependent on general fund monies.

In 2007, Ritter changed the name of the then-Office of Energy Management and Conservation, which had been founded 30 years earlier, to the Governor's Energy Office. At the same time, he shifted the agency's mission from promoting energy conservation to renewable energy.

Supporters of the new approach argued that it was inappropriate for state oil/gas severance tax revenues to back renewable projects, and the opponents of the new office argue that it will hurt the future development of renewables.

Becker said other states already have been calling to learn about what the legislation was attempting to do so that they, too, could "have a balanced energy office."

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