Colo renewable energy bill passes another hurdle | VailDaily.com

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Colo renewable energy bill passes another hurdle

DENVER – Colorado is one step closer to increasing requirements for electricity generation from renewable sources, like wind and solar energy.

House Bill 1001 would require large utilities in Colorado to generate at least 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The bill passed out of the Senate Local Government and Energy Committee Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 4-3. The bill will now move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It passed the state House of Representatives last month and has strong support from Gov. Bill Ritter.

The bill would apply to Xcel Energy, which supplies electricity to Summit County. According to Xcel, the company is already on track to meet the proposed target.

Before Tuesday’s committee hearing, environmental groups released a new report claiming that the legislation could create more than 23,000 jobs statewide during the next 10 years.

One provision in the bill would require that 3 percent of large utilities’ electricity sales come from on-site, “distributed-generation” renewable energy sources, such as small-scale wind and solar-energy systems. One advantage of distributed-generation systems, proponents say, is that they supply electricity where it is used, reducing demand on transmission systems in the electricity grid.

“We can be the best in the West by rolling up our sleeves and putting Coloradans to work building tens of thousands of solar rooftops on homes, stores and office buildings across the state,” said Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado. “Going solar is smart economic strategy and a critical environmental solution.”

Environment Colorado estimates the legislation would deploy 700 megawatts of solar generation by 2020. The organization’s new report, “Investing in the Sun,” concludes that 1,000 megawatts of distributed solar energy would create more than 33,000 jobs, generate enough electricity to power 146,000 homes, save 6.8 billion gallons of water and obviate 30 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the systems.

“This report proves what we already know,” said state Sen. Gail Schwartz, the bill’s co-sponsor. “The new energy economy is creating jobs in Colorado for Coloradans. By raising our renewable energy standard, we will see thousands of new jobs and prove that Colorado is leading the nation when it comes to innovation.”

About 230 solar companies, including both photovoltaic and solar-thermal businesses, now operate in Colorado, employing about 2,500 people, according to the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association.

“The stronger the commitment that the state can make today to developing our solar potential, the more attractive it will be for businesses like ours, and the larger the investment we will be able to make in cities and towns across Colorado,” said Rick Gilliam, vice president of government affairs for SunEdison, which opened a new regional operations center in Westminster last year.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.