Ritter renewable hike sails through Senate; clean air bill next on agenda
Gov. Bill Ritter may be a lame-duck chief executive laid up by a recent bike crash, but his clean-energy agenda keeps rolling along like Lance Armstrong in the Alps.
The state Senate Friday passed on third reading HB-1001, which ups the renewable energy standard for publicly owned utilities to 30 percent by 2020 – one of the most aggressive requirements in the nation. The bill, which primarily affects Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility with 1.1 million customers, now goes to Ritter for a signature.
“We are one step closer to being the best in the West when it comes to renewable energy,” Pam Kiely, program director of Environment Colorado, said in a release. “This increase to Colorado’s renewable energy standard keeps us in the fast lane, and ensures we take advantage of the opportunity to put Coloradans back to work.”
Xcel accounts for more than half the electricity consumed in the state, and the increased RES – up from the current level of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 – had the support of Xcel officials.
Republicans, however, continued to hammer the proposal up to the 11th hour. It passed by a Senate vote of 21-13.
“Renewable energy is not the problem, but the approach of this proposal is,” Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said in a ColoradoSenateNews.com release, adding California’s 33 percent by 2020 RES is contributing to that state’s economic demise.
“Thankfully, California has once again shown us the road not to travel,” Lundberg said. “Let’s not mimic their failed policies that have lead to high taxation and high unemployment. We cannot spend and mandate our way to prosperity.”
Also Friday, Ritter’s office announced an agreement with Xcel, a coalition of state lawmakers, other energy companies and environmental groups to dramatically improve the emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plants on the Front Range by 2017.
The proposed Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act would require Xcel to work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to submit a plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission by Aug. 15 detailing how nitrogen oxide emissions at coal plants can be cut by up to 80 percent over the next eight years.
Xcel would outline how to retire or retrofit 900 megawatts of coal-fired electrical capacity at metro-area power plants, re-powering or replacing them with natural gas plants and other lower-emitting resources.
“Xcel Energy supports proposed legislation to establish a comprehensive process for addressing more stringent current and future federal Clean Air Act requirements,” David Eves, president and CEO for Public Service Co. of Colorado [an Xcel company], said in a release.
The move is clearly a proactive bid to get out ahead of pending federal climate change legislation, or at the very least more stringent enforcement of greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under auspices of the Clean Air Act.