Enviros lament failure of bill targeting IREA energy efficiency

While praising the Colorado Legislature for passing more than a dozen “green economic recovery” bills in the session that wrapped up Wednesday, conservation groups also skewered lawmakers for failing to require greater energy efficiency of the state’s largest rural electric co-op.

The Intermountain Rural Electric Association, with nearly 138,000 members between Denver and Colorado Springs, said it was being unfairly targeted by House Bill 1323, which would have required co-ops with more than 100,000 members to use energy efficiency and conservation programs to save electricity equal to 2 percent of the REA’s 2008 sales by 2012. That number would have gone up to 10 percent by 2020.

The IREA, the 13th largest REA in the country, is the only co-op with more than 100,000 members in Colorado. The majority of its board and its general manager favor coal-fired electricity over more expensive forms of renewable energy – a controversial position that sparked a contentious board election in April.

HB 1323 never made it out of the House, and environmentalists said that was largely due to the lobbying efforts of the IREA.

“Energy efficiency investments were the cornerstone of the federal stimulus effort,” said Pam Kiely, legislative program director of Environment Colorado. “So it is a huge disappointment that for the second year in a row the Colorado Legislature dropped the ball on a bill that would have created millions in savings for cash-strapped Coloradans. We are a leader in the New Energy Economy, but we still have a patchwork of regulations covering the rural electricity providers.”

Environment Colorado claimed the bill would have saved $85 million and created 200 new jobs, but the IREA responded that it would have driven up electric rates for people who could least afford it.

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