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Renewable energy bill dies

SUMMIT COUNTY – Power companies helped kill a bill in a Senate committee Wednesday that would have increased renewable energy use in Colorado.

House Bill 1295 would have required utilities to obtain 8 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind power by 2010.

“It’s a shame the committee killed this bill,” said John Stencil, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “Surrounding states have passed renewable energy standards, in effect helping their rural communities to stay alive and adding to the incomes of farmers and ranchers.”



The Rural Electric Association, a coalition of 23 utilities, gave the strongest opposition to the bill. The bill died 4-3 in the Senate Business Affairs Committee. Under the bill, those utility companies would have had to tap more renewable energy sources to achieve the overall 8 percent shift. Until renewable energy sources are used on a large scale, they are more expensive for utility companies.

Advocates of renewable energy say harnessing wind and solar power helps the economy by providing a price hedge from rising natural gas prices. It also helps struggling agricultural communities where a farmer can earn $3,000 to $5,000 per wind turbine per year in lease payments, said Stephanie Bonin, an energy association with Colorado Public Interest Resource Group (CoPIRG).



Others states, including Minnesota, Texas and Nevada, have already taken the lead on developing alternative, renewable energy sources.

“We can’t wait any longer,” Bonin said. We need new solutions that offer economic growth and stability. Renewable energy is an important part of this solution.”

According to Bonin, the bill could have created almost $100 million in rural economic development.

A similar standard in Texas, signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush, has already resulted in projects that are projected to pay more than $225 million over their lifetimes to support various county services, hospitals, fire departments and school districts, Bonin said.

The bill’s death didn’t surprise local Green Party members who have long lobbied for increased use of alternative, renewable energy sources. Wednesday, almost a dozen citizens met with U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell aide Ricardo LaFore to ask for legislation to promote such uses.

Some said they were discouraged by Bush’s economic policies that favor oil interests and by the perception that money from special interests is the driving force behind government policy.

“The potential is enormous,” said Sue Carr-Novotny of Breckenridge. “And we’re here right at the hub. We could be another Silicon Valley. I’m surprised. Here we are in the 21st century, and we’re still using fossil fuels.”

LaFore said it currently is unreasonable to abandon oil-based fuel sources completely and that technology has not come far enough to make renewable energy viable.

“The technology exists,” argued Tom Castrigno of Frisco. “It’s just not being utilized. And corporate interests are preventing this.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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