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Renewable energy bill dies

Kimberly Nicoletti

DENVER – The push for renewable energy is going to have to come from residents this year, because a legislative bill that would have required cel Energy to actively reduce electricity consumption by using renewable energy, such as wind power, died in the last session.

SB 180, sponsored by State Sen. Terry Phillips, D-District 17, would have required providers of electrical service, such as cel, to comply with an electricity resource standard for renewable energy or face fines.

The bill would have mandated a specific percentage of the total amount of electricity sold originate from renewable energy systems, such as solar thermal energy, wind or photovoltaic energy.

By 2005, cel would have had to provide 400 megawatts of renewable energy, enough for 400,000 homes, and that number would have had to double by 2010. Currently, cel’s WindSource program provides 60 megawatts of windpower, enough for 60,000 homes, cel spokesperson Mark Stutz said.

The bill died last month when the Senate could not concur on House amendments: for example, allowing cel to count its hydroelectric plants and WindSource program toward the percentage of renewable energy, stretching the deadline to 2020, changing the amount of alternative energy produced to a flat number of megawatts instead of percentages and eliminating the specific fine of 30 cents for every kilowatt hour cel fell short of the renewable energy requirement.

“We were hopeful we could set some standards for energy producers, knowing the political reality that we’ll have to wean ourselves from oil fields,” said Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-District 13. Both the Senate and the House passed their own versions of the bill on the third readings, but in the end, the two versions differed too much to be agreed upon by the deadline.

“The fact that the bill had votes in both the House and the Senate bodes well for it,” Fitz-Gerald said. “But, someone will have to carry the bill and reintroduce it in January.”

Though cel supports renewable energy, the company believes it should be market driven, rather than legally mandated, Stutz said.

“We will build all the renewable energy programs that our customers are willing to pay for,” he said. “As a general rule, renewable energy does cost more than traditional sources of generating electricity.”

He believes legislation should not force customers to support higher-priced renewables. cel allows its customers to support renewable energy through its WindSource program, which allows them to buy blocks of 100 kilowatt-hours at $2.50. Most households would need 600 kilowatt hours to provide a month’s worth of electricity, which would add about $15 to their cel bill, Stutz said.

Supporters for mandated renewable energy argue Colorado needs new, clean alternatives to generate electricity, as the state’s energy demand grows at a rate of 3 percent every year, said Rex Wilmouth, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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