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Utility at Odds Over Solar-Strong Legislation

Colorado’s Renewable Energy Initiative 145, which would establish a state-wide renewable energy portfolio standard, goes to a state wide vote

Utility at Odds Over Solar-Strong Legislation

Colorado’s Renewable Energy Initiative 145, which would establish a state-wide renewable energy portfolio standard, goes to a state wide vote in November. It faces an uphill battle however, since one of Colorado’s major utilities is against the bill, due partially in part to its strong solar component.

Denver, Colorado – August 13, 2004 []

The state initiative requires the seven major utility companies in Colorado to obtain 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric power by 2015, with a four percent emphasis on solar power. Campaign co-chairmen are Republican Speaker of the House Lola Spradley and Democratic Congressman Mark Udall.

“It is a crucial time to think about our energy security. We need to prepare for the future by reducing our dependence on unstable foreign energy sources. Renewable Energy is a step toward a secure, stable energy future,” Udall said.

Xcel Energy, which is one of Colorado’s larger utility companies, has already voiced opposition to the proposed requirement, and YES views the opposition as detrimental to renewable energy advances in the state. Campaign volunteers have collected over 110,000 signatures so far on the petition that asks Xcel Energy’s CEO not to block renewable energy progress for the state, and urges him to withdraw the company’s opposition to the initiative. The Colorado Secretary of State requires 67,829 valid signatures in order to place it on the November ballot.

Renewable energy sources are not a foreign concept to Xcel. The utility provides customers 829 MW of electric capacity through wind energy from company owned wind farms and green tag purchases. A Least-Cost Resource Plan that the company filed with the state’s Public Utilities Commission was approved, and will allow the company to purchase up to 500 MW of renewable energy through a competitive bidding process.

According to Xcel’s reading of Initiative 145, the legislation doesn’t provide a means for regulatory bodies to measure the cost and system reliability impacts of such a mandate. Installation rebates offered through the initiative for solar equipment could go as high as US$ 200,000 for one project, and would be subsidized by tax payers. There is a four percent requirement for energy generated through solar power, and cost estimates for functioning solar installations can be five to eight times more than wind installations, according to information from the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“We hope that voters will understand the need to balance the desire for more renewable energy with an analysis of the complex language proposed for this new and far-reaching law,” was written in a statement on the company’s Web site. “Xcel Energy has been and will continue to be a strong proponent of adding more renewable energy to our system, but we believe Initiative 145 is the wrong way to do it.”

The state currently gets only 2 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and increasing this margin to 10 percent would have the same environmental impact as removing pollution from 600,000 cars each year, according to the statistics from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The petition is still active on the campaign Web site, and the group is still looking for volunteers and donations to promote education about the renewable energy initiative before the November vote. A copy of the initiative question is available on the Web site as well.

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