Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation that will double the amount of energy that his state’s large rural electric coops and the utilities that provide them power must get from renewable sources to 20% by 2020. Enactment of the legislation represents a major victory for clean energy advocates and Colorado’s rural economies, and came despite a massive disinformation campaign run by the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity that is backed by right wing oil billionaires David and Charles Koch.
Hickenlooper’s signature on the bill is the latest rejection of a national campaign by conservative organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and the Heartland Institute to thwart clean energy momentum by rolling back state renewable energy standards that have been adopted in 29 states and the District of Columbia. This year, legislators in more than a dozen states have sought to either outright repeal such mandates or water them down, but most of those efforts have failed.
Colorado has been a leader in requiring utilities to provide a significant share of electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources. It was the first state to require a renewable energy standard through a statewide vote, a 10 percent requirement for large investor owned utilities. Since that initial effort the state legislature has twice increased the requirement, which now stands at 30 percent.
Until passage of this year’s legislation, rural electric coops had been required to produce only 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. The legislation sponsored by the president of the state Senate and speaker of the state House, will affect two entities, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, a utility which supplies power to 18 coops, and the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, a coop which has 140,000 customers.
Opponents of the legislation, including the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, mounted a furious campaign to secure a Hickenlooper veto of the legislation, claiming it will mean a “war on rural Colorado” and cost rural consumers billions of dollars.