January 28, 2014

Renewable Energy Debate Resumes In Colorado

Colorado’s Democrats aren’t willing to scrap a plan to increase renewable energy requirements for rural electricity providers.

But they insist they’re ready to talk about revising the proposal that has sparked sharp opposition in pockets of the state.

The Democratic Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 3-2 on party lines Wednesday to reject a GOP proposal on renewable energy. The bill would have undone a 2013 law to double the renewable energy standard for rural providers, from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2020.

Most Coloradans are already under higher requirements, but Republicans have vigorously argued that rural customers can’t afford the upgrade.

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, urged his colleagues not to consider changes to the energy law, but to ax it outright.

Harvey called the energy law “a terribly written piece of legislation that would be very hard to accommodate in the real world of business.”

Democrats said they haven’t seen negative effects of the law, which so far hasn’t changed anyone’s electricity bills. They have pointed to the law 2 percent cap on rate hikes as evidence it won’t unduly burden ratepayers.

“Let’s move forward with this stuff,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville.

Many energy companies skipped the hearing, likely because Harvey’s repeal effort faced long odds. A handful of renewable energy supporters asked lawmakers not to repeal the measure.

“Increased reliance on renewable energy would be a benefit everyone in the state,” said Anna Giovinetto of Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., based in Broomfield.

Democrats pointed out that debate will continue on the energy law.

House Republicans have proposed giving rural electricity providers more time to comply with the requirements. There’s also a proposal to ease the renewable energy standard requirement to 15 percent.
Democrats haven’t endorsed any of those proposals, but they assured Republicans they’re willing to consider changes to a law some cited.

“Repeal is not the place to start,” said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Denver.

Senate Republicans, miffed that many of their proposals have been assigned to what’s often referred to as the “Kill Committee,” groused that Harvey’s energy bill is just the first GOP proposal facing doom at the hands of Senate Democrats, who hold a one-seat majority.

“It’s a setup for anything but bipartisan cooperation in this legislative session,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Fort Collins.

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