Investor-owned utilities expected to reach currently mandated 20-percent renewables requirement well ahead of 2020 target.
Look out California, because Colorado has the renewable resources--and the political will--to take the lead in clean, responsible, renewable energy development and policy.
Under current state law, investor-owned utilities in Colorado must get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar energy by 2020. But if a bill introduced by Representative Max Tyler gains approval in the state legislature, that figure would jump to 30 percent by 2020, with at least 5 percent coming from smaller "distributed" sources.
Colorado House Bill 1001 (pdf), sponsored by Rep. Max Tyler, D-Jefferson County, would increase electric utilities' renewable energy portfolio standard to 30 percent by 2020. A similar bill is expected to be introduced into the Colorado Senate by Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village.
The 30 percent renewables target would be the second most ambitious standard in the United States, California's 33 percent renewable energy requirement leads all others.
The largest investor-owned utility in the state, Xcel Energy, was strongly opposed to the original renewable energy standard when it was passed by Colorado voters back in 2004, but has made a complete about-face on renewables, becoming one of the largest utility generators of renewable energy in the U.S.
Company spokesman Mark Stutz said Xcel could endorse the 30 percent standard if customers continue to be protected from big price increases. Currently, utilities can't charge customers more than 2 percent of their monthly bill to pay for their increased use of renewable energy. "As long as the cap on increased costs remains in place as protection for our customers," Stutz said, "we are willing to consider increasing the standard."
And it may not matter whether the state requires them to or not, Xcel says reaching the 30-percent mandate is certainly a possibility. Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said in a recent interview with the Colorado Independent: “The concept of trying to reach a 30 percent renewable level for Xcel Energy in Colorado is one that is not impossible, with or without legislation.”
As I mentioned in the most recent edition of the Earth & Industry 'Gang of Four' podcast, in the absence of federal leadership on energy and climate, states like Colorado will continue to forge ahead with aggressive and innovative policies to stimulate growth in energy efficiency and clean energy generation. In so doing, I argue, those states will pull even further ahead of others more reluctant to forge similar policies -- unfortunately widening the gap between the clean energy haves and have-nots.