Colorado Senate Votes To Strengthen State’s Successful Clean Energy Standard

(Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa)

Colorado residents will now be able to enjoy even more clean energy coming out of their outlets, along with cleaner air and less carbon pollution.

After nearly two days of strenuous debate, Colorado’s House of Representatives voted shortly before midnight Friday night to strengthen the state’s successful renewable energy standard (RES). The bill, which has already passed the Senate and is supported by Governor Hickenlooper, will increase the clean energy standard to 25 percent for rural electric cooperatives by 2020 — a 15 percentage point jump from the current 10 percent. This would mean in seven years, rural areas of Colorado will benefit from one-quarter of their energy portfolio being derived from renewable sources.

These efforts proved successful despite:

  • attacks from the conservative American Tradition Institute, including an ongoing lawsuit that argues the RES is unconstitutional
  • previous attempts from state representatives to pass American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) “model” bills to fully repeal the standard (documented across the country)
  • sudden opposition to expanding the RES from utility interests like the Colorado Rural Electric Association, an organization that had actually supported a broader RES in 2007 as renewable energy prices dropped

Prior to the vote, Democratic State Representatives made strong arguments about diversifying their energy portfolios and how important it is to decrease carbon pollution. Rep. Max Tyler, author of the 2010 law increasing the standard to 30 percent for utilities, explained how his own utility bill was cheaper than those in rural electric cooperatives because renewable energy prices have dropped steadily. Speaker Pro Tempore Claire Levy reported that the utility Xcel found that increasing its share of renewables was good for its bottom line, and because this bill included a 2 percent rate cap, ratepayers would be protected. Responding to arguments that the bill is an “assault” on rural Colorado, Levy said that instead, the bill would allow rural areas to benefits from the economic activity generated by the higher standards in other areas. In the end, the bill passed the House by voice vote.

In 2004, Coloradans were the first to approve a renewable energy standard by ballot initiative. The Centennial State has already seen the benefits of implementing and expanding a robust RES. In fact, from 2005 to 2010, the clean technology sector grew by 32 percent. This growth has led to the creation of 1,600 clean technology companies that employ over 19,000 workers, which ranks Colorado fourth nationally in clean energy jobs. In fact, the clean technology sector was the only sector in the state to show growth in 2010.

Coloradans also overwhelmingly support the policy, with 72 percent of the state agreeing that “rather than using more coal, we should move toward cleaner sources of energy,” a view held across party lines. Prior to the vote, nearly 4,000 Coloradans signed CREDO Action’s petition in support of the bill, which urged the Colorado representatives to “Please vote yes on SB 252 to ensure that Colorado continues its transition to clean sources of energy.”

Expanding Colorado’s renewable energy standard will not only continue to create clean jobs in Colorado, it will also reduce soot, smog, mercury, and carbon pollution from the state’s electricity sector. This legislation would promote investments in small-scale projects that will allow rural landowners to benefit by leasing land for wind farms — creating an additional income stream, as well as allow additional credits for renewable sources.

In fact, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind energy provides 10 times more local tax revenue than a coal-fired power plant in Colorado. If enacted, the legislation would clean up the grid for at least 100,000 Coloradans served by rural cooperatives and bring them closer to the 30 percent renewable target that urban customers enjoy.

22 Responses to Colorado Senate Votes To Strengthen State’s Successful Clean Energy Standard

  1. fj says:

    Clean energy seems to be a no brainer.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    But why is it so hard for the classic energy providers to make the transistion? Does it come down to a lack of information/knowledge of the fast advancing technology?

    If you build a solar/wind farm you can generate for years to come, with upgrades literally for ever! With fossil resources you have to constantly need to find new resources, need to bribe locals, have to pay compensation claims and such like that. Also your image is shitty…


  3. Leif says:

    “… attacks from the conservative American Tradition Institute, including an ongoing lawsuit that argues the RES is unconstitutional.” IMO what is “unconstitutional” is the ability of corporations, now “Corpro/People,” to profit from the pollution of the commons as “We the People” are fined for throwing a gum wrapper on the street. Go figure.

  4. Andy Hultgren says:

    Great success story and really well written. This is something that can be reposted and can appeal to readers of all political stripes. Thank you CP!!

  5. Ken Barrows says:

    And the next question: will fewer Coloradoans drive monster sized vehicles to enjoy themselves in the mountains?

    Note: I am a resident of Denver.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    At least Colorado has a functioning legislature that heeds the views of the cross-party majority.

    Earlier this week I participated in the 23rd Earth Day Lobby in Albany NY. We called for legislation in support for solar energy, limitation & reduction of greenhouse gases, child-safe products, a two year moratorium on hydrofracking, and election funding reform.

    Like the US Congress, the New York State legislature has two houses with different political majorities. In New York the State Assembly is Democratic-majority, while the State Senate is GOP-majority.

    The big reason that environmental groups in New York call for election funding reform is that so much common-sense legislation has been blocked by the influence of campaign donations, contrary to what the majority of the public wants.

    Nationwide, why shouldn’t environmental groups do the same? Call for election reform to clear the path for the other changes we desperately need.

  7. Peter Anderson says:

    The key point that cries out for in depth investigation is why is ALEC, the fossil boys’ lap dog, suddenly going after RPS laws this year, and never before.

    The obvious working assumption is that wind is becoming competitive w/o RPS, as in some parts of the country is solar. Add RPS, and they will be cheaper, which, I would have to think, will soon give them a leg up in the auction process that now determines whose power output is purchased by the Independent System Operator.

  8. Omega Centauri says:

    This is good news. I also heard the North Carolina legislature defeated a bill to gut their REC standards. So many states are afflicted with these astroturf anti-renewables efforts, but for the most part they are being defeated.

    This doesn’t change the fact that our adoption of renewables is too slow.

  9. GreenCaboose says:

    GREAT! Maybe now the Wingnuts who run the Mountain View Electric Association (unfortunately the monopoly I get electricity from) will support solar rebates in the manner that, for example, Excel Energy does. The moment they do my order for panels goes in.

    These creation-believing, climate-change denying buffoons actually are going backwards. This year they changed the TOU rules from giving you a significant discount when night charging to almost no discount at all – very likely because they found that most participants in that program were electric car owners.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘courts’ are a real bastion of elite rule. The ‘common law’ is basically elite law, drawn up over centuries to protect the privileges and prerogatives of the rich. The upper classes dominate the legal caste, and even access to the legal system requires huge amounts of money, making it inaccessible to the vast majority. Legal aid is under attack throughout the Anglosphere, part of the ‘austerity’ phase of the unending class war that the elites never cease from prosecuting. And judges are either political place-men selected for their ideological reliability or picked in order to deliberately insult under-represented minorities (eg when the great Thurgood Marshall was replaced by the narcoleptic Clarence Thomas)or elected in a nakedly partisan contest. And judges in the Common Law system can come to any basically ideological decision that rank sophistry and casuistry can cast a diaphanous veil over, knowing that the Rightwing MSM propaganda system will back them up, all the way, so long as the eternal common enterprise, the protection and furtherance of elite rule, is thereby served.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That is the absolute key to the resolution of all the major woes of capitalist democracy. Take away the money power of the rich to buy politicians, make electoral funding public, end corporate lobbying and allow the actual opinions of the people, for good or ill, rather than those of the parasite caste, determine governance. It won’t happen without some form of, almost certainly violent, social catharsis, but it is the only hope of redemption.

  12. Addicted says:

    Because it is harder for them to maintain their monopoly positions which allows them to make billions every quart in profits.

    1) Low capital costs means Anyone can enter the clean energy game, including your grandparents who can setup solar panels on their rooftops.
    2) Since the “fuel” is easily accessible to anyone (sun, wind) they can’t maintain their monopolies and hence their huge profits by being the only ones who can bribe and get concessions from dictatorial regimes across the world.

  13. Omega Centauri says:

    Part of the problem is long payback periods are required to pay of the capital used to build power plants and other infrastructure. So utilities need a stable longterm rate of income in order to pay back long term loans.

    Of course most of the renewable buildout is likely to be via medium scale utility power plants, whether windfarms or PV farms -or other stuff like low head hydro, geothermal etc. And these should match the utility model. I really think this will be the case with energy storage as well. For a variety of reasons I don’t think batteries in every garage in going to be the way we store power.

  14. Daniel Coffey says:

    Way too slow!! If we are going to electrify transportation and decarbonize electricity production enough to make any difference, given the current near-400 ppm CO2 levels – we are all going to have to rapidly convert to large-scale solar PV, wind and geothermal. I am not against rooftops, but they are limited – despite vociferous PR to the contrary – and we need to massively transform, not nickel and dime.

  15. Omega Centauri says:

    For sure. I figure Pv is roughly 15%/30%/55%, percentages residential rooftops, enterprise rooftops (including public buildings like schools), and utility plants. It is the later two categories that need the real push, since only they are capable of growing to the needed scale quickly.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    But many people live in big cities, places i imagine you can not just easily place a solar panel on your roof. All these people are customers and if you look deeply into synergetic effects with an entire new economy based around electric infrastructure – companies today might been better off when investing into huge clean energy generation.

  17. fj says:

    The President must stop allowing this corruption to continue to even try to slow down rapid action on climate change.

    He has the political capital any time he needs to move on climate change.

    It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when and that must be now.

  18. SecularAnimist says:

    Daniel Coffey wrote: “I am not against rooftops, but they are limited – despite vociferous PR to the contrary – and we need to massively transform, not nickel and dime.”

    Well, everything is ultimately “limited”, Daniel.

    The potential of rooftop solar is vast. For example, installing solar photovoltaics on just the flat commercial rooftops that already exist in the USA (e.g. shopping malls, office parks, warehouses, factories, etc) could generate more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the country.

    And electricity produced at or near the point of use, typically during times of peak demand, is especially valuable.

    As for “nickel and dime”, that’s just wrong. Distributed rooftop solar is a large-scale solution — in the same way that personal computers and cell phones are large-scale solutions to other techno-social needs. Both Germany and Australia have demonstrated that distributed rooftop solar can be scaled up with astonishing speed, to the point where it drastically alters the economics of centralized, grid-distributed electricity generation, and helps enable the rapid phaseout of coal.

    I’ll say this again and again: THERE IS NO DICHOTOMY between centralized utility-scale solar and distributed end-user solar. They are not in any way in opposition to each other; there is no either-or aspect to even be debated. On the contrary, they are complementary and help to enable each other.

    And indeed, there is not really any clear line between them. Rather, there is a spectrum between mega-solar power plants at one end of the scale (e.g. the multiple solar power stations operating or being built in the Mojave, in the tens-to-hundreds of Megawatts range), to the multi-KW range installations typical of residential rooftops, with small-to-large scale corporate and municipal solar in the tens of Kilowatts to MW range in between.

    That’s one of the beautiful and powerful things about solar, is its scalability, literally from giant gigawatt-scale power stations down to something that fits in a backpack and provides basic electricity needs for a rural village in Africa.

  19. fj says:

    prokaryotes: “people live in big cities . . . can not just easily place a solar panel on your roof.”

    Actually, . . . here’s a site detailing the way NYC is solving this.

    NYC Solar

  20. fj says:

    Buildout photovoltaics whatever way as fast as possible for the great transition.

    Ultimately, energy production will be living-system-like (if not in actuality) completely distributed and on-demand like walking is to transportation.

    Smart microgids will satisfy communal needs.

    Ooh can’t wait.

  21. fj says:

    How silly. We have a huge amount of that already.

    It’s called human power.