Opportunities for rural economic development and less pollution will spread across Colorado with the adoption of Senate Bill 252, according to renewable energy businesses located in rural electric cooperative territories.
“Increasing Colorado’s renewable energy standards for rural electric co-ops offers rural Coloradans what they want: more solar, less pollution, more energy security and diversity, and more rural Colorado jobs,” said Lou Villaire, co-owner of Atlasta Solarwhich has provided service to Grand Valley Power Coop members for 35 years.
The renewable energy bill, which won final legislative approval Wednesday night, will also help clean up Colorado’s air, make electricity more reliable, and safeguard the environment for the future.
“The passage of SB 252 shows that the Colorado state legislature understands the importance of continuing to develop our clean, local and affordable energy resources like solar and wind across the state. As the Governor also supports clean energy development, we hope he responds promptly and signs the bill into law,” said Jeanne Bassett, Senior Associate with Environment Colorado.
The legislation will double the Renewable Energy Standard, from 10 percent to 20 percent for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the wholesale energy provider to most Colorado electric co-ops, and Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the largest distribution cooperative in the state.
By 2020, these large energy providers will be asked to come closer to the 30 percent Renewable Energy Standard that Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy are well on their way to meeting. The legislation includes the same 2 percent cap on rate increases applied to Xcel – a rate impact that, if realized, the Colorado Energy Office estimates would cost the average family about $2 a month.
Members of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association who live in co-op territory are enthusiastic about the positive impacts they foresee.
“As a resident and business owner within a co-op territory, I strongly feel that Senate Bill 252 would be a tremendous boost to the local economy,” said Josh Fabian, President of solar installer Dynamic Integration, LLC in Montrose, an area served byDelta Montrose Electric Association. “Not only would companies like mine be able to work closer to their home office, leading to less consumption of fuel, lower overheard and increased efficiency, but we would also have the opportunity to hire and train additional installers who would be adding to the local economy.”
“SB 252 is a common sense market- driven solution to making the grid more stable and diverse with more local renewable energy,” said Derek Wadsworth of Durango SolarWorks, an installation company in southwest Colorado working primarily within La Plata Electric Association and Empire Electric Association co-op territories.
The bill is expected to create new opportunities for renewable energy businesses by increasing the Renewable Energy Standard. Additionally, the legislation will create opportunities in rural Colorado through the Distributed Generation carve-out. Under this bill, distribution cooperatives with more than 10,000 meters will have a carve-out of 1 percent of total retail electric sales, and smaller co-ops will have a 0.75 percent DG carve-out.
“Reliable renewable energy like solar should be seriously considered in a variety of settings in rural Colorado,” said Zach Beamon, energy consultant for High Noon Solar.“This measure would help put dollars in rural Colorado and would really count in making solar more affordable for customers of the coops.” Beamon works in territories of Grand Valley Power, Delta Montrose Electric Association, and Holy Cross Electric Association.
“Many of my clients are waiting to see if this bill will move forward before starting installation,” said Wadsworth. “SolarWorks will be hiring at least 4-6 installers and a couple administration positions if these projects move forward– not to mention all the other trades we will subcontract work to such as excavation, concrete, and major electrical work.”
Fabian, whose company also works in territories of San Miguel and Grand Valley coops,agrees that the indirect effects of a thriving renewable energy industry are also important. “Everyone from the local company that does our placard engraving, the local mechanic that services our trucks, the local office supply company, local hardware stores and electrical suppliers– all of these community minded businesses would inevitably see an increase of revenue from the adoption of Senate Bill 252,” he said. “I believe that renewable energy is our future and that there is no better time to be striving toward that future than this moment.”
Senate Bill 252 was sponsored by Senate President John Morse and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, along with Senator Gail Schwartz and Representative Crisanta Duran. It is headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.
“Rural Coloradans have already voted, and we have voted for more solar,” said Villaire. “Requiring Colorado rural Electric Co-ops to generate more electricity from solar at a minimal cost is not a hardship but rather an opportunity to increase jobs, reduce pollution, and lower electricity bills over the long-term for rural Colorado coop members.”
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