Backing up the reputation that Colorado is an environmentally conscious state, Gov. Bill Ritter this week signed into law House Bill 1281 and Senate Bill 100 — two centerpieces of Colorado’s New Energy Economy legislative agenda — at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Wind Technology Center south of Boulder.

Ritter declared that the two new laws will “shine a spotlight” on Colorado’s commitment to becoming the new energy capital of the nation. “Voters set the stage in 2004 with the passage of Amendment 37,” the governor said. “Today, we amplify that commitment by doubling our renewable energy standard through House Bill 1281 and by making it easier to load wind power onto the electric grid through Senate Bill 100.”

In addition to doubling the renewable energy standard established by voters with the 2004 passage of Amendment 37, House Bill 1281 mandates that large investor-owned utilities like Xcel must now provide 20% of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. The law also requires municipal utilities and rural electric providers, which had been excluded from the requirements of Amendment 37, to achieve a renewable energy goal of 10% by 2020. The law provides a 3-to-1 credit to rural electric associations for investment in solar energy.

Colorado has been proactive about its energy future over the past couple of years and has been on the cutting edge of renewable initiatives. Colorado voters in late 2004 backed an amendment mandating that 10% of energy sales (not generating capacity and contracts) be in renewables by 2015 and specified that at least 4% of those sales should be in solar energy (see Power Market Today, Nov. 9, 2004; Nov. 4, 2004). The initiative won by with 52% of the vote and marked the first time a clean energy standard was on the ballot anywhere in the country.

Just last week, a bill proposing to significantly alter the make-up of a Colorado commission that manages oil and natural gas operations cleared the state House (see Daily GPI, March 26). A spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) called it “one of the more dramatic pieces of legislation” that the energy industry is facing nationwide. The measure (HB 1341), which producers largely oppose, is now headed to the Senate. It would cut to three from five the number of energy industry members on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, while increasing the overall number of members on the panel to nine from seven. It also would revise the definition of “waste” associated with oil and gas production.

A recent study found HB 1281 would provide significant economic benefits, particularly to rural Colorado, by:

“These new laws will improve our economic security, our environmental security and our national security,” Ritter added. “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.'”

Senate Bill 100 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 also allows utilities to recover costs during construction and allows the state 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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