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May 4, 2013
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Vail Daily column: Bill boosts renewable energy generation

There is much misinformation going around about the amended, final SB252.

Please let me share what I know from my research, outreach and carefully listening and asking questions, which led me to demand changes to the bill.

I told the speaker of the state House that I would not vote for the bill unless changes were made. I convinced him on two amendments that I negotiated and ran on the floor. One got bipartisan support.

As soon as I read the bill, I began my due diligence by getting information from all stakeholders (including the governor’s staff, Colorado Energy Office, Farm Bureau, Conservation Colorado, Holy Cross, Twentymile Mine, Hayden Power Plant).

Then I met with the speaker and outlined the two amendments I wanted to see before I could vote yes on SB252: lowering the TriState requirement from 25 percent to 20 percent; and lessening the distributed generation requirement for the very small rural co-ops.

I wanted to lessen cost impacts for rural families affected. I heard them clearly in the six-hour House Transportation and Energy Committee hearing on the bill. I cosponsored the 20 percent amendment, and then I introduced the distributed generation amendment. Both were compromises arrived at via negotiation. Both passed. They improved the bill.

On Saturday, based on those amendments, The Denver Post changed its editorial position from opposition to support, urging the governor to sign the bill.

It is important to note that the 20 percent wholesale requirement does not affect consumers in Eagle County or Routt County because the 20 percent does not include Holy Cross for two reasons:

First, because our local, member-owned Eagle County (Holy Cross) and Routt County rural co-ops do not buy power from TriState, we customer-members will not be affected by the 20 percent TriState requirement. Holy Cross contracts for power with Xcel, which means that Holy Cross meets SB252 requirements for wholesale power because Xcel is meeting its larger 30 percent renewable requirement.

Second, the “20 percent by 2020” requirement does not apply to any co-op with less than 100,000 meters. All of those co-ops remain under the existing 10 percent requirement regardless of where they buy their power.

That said, for the TriState co-ops, member-customers may be affected by TriState passing their costs of meeting the 20 percent on to member co-ops. There are widely varying estimates of those costs, with some analysts seeing a short-term increase as new investments are made, and then a long-term decrease in price. Others see a persistent price increase. That is why there is a 2 percent monthly rate cap in the bill.

If a TriState co-op has to raise prices to meet any portion of the standard, and those price increases to customers reach 2 percent, then the co-op can desist from further expenditures. Using the average annualized Colorado household electric bill of $60 per month, this would be no more than $1.20.

Yet the misinformation still abounds, saying the bill would cost TriState families “hundreds of dollars” every month. The only way a $120 monthly increase could happen is if the TriState family’s bill now was $6,000 per month.

The 1 percent distributed generation requirement affects all rural co-ops, including Holy Cross.

It will create jobs in many rural areas of our state, especially in construction. The pyrolysis of landfill materials and coal mine methane capture could also lead to new jobs.

Biomass plants such as the one in Gypsum will lead to more demand for beetle kill timber. There are two components of the total 1 percent distributed generation requirement

First, on the co-op side of the meter, the co-op needs to provide up to half of 1 percent of its power from local, community-based co-op projects. According to Holy Cross Director Del Worley and Board President Mike Glass, Holy Cross has several renewable distributed generation projects that can meet this requirement.

Second, on the customer side of the meter, co-ops must get up to one half of 1 percent from home or business-owned renewable installations. A number of Holy Cross customers now net meter from their home or business photovoltaic, wind or hydro. This number will increase.

Both types of distributed generation will increase local renewable installation and new and retrofit construction jobs and help a number of existing businesses and jobs in Routt and Eagle counties. Both may spur investments in local biomass plants that use the beetle kill timber in our forests.

If you have questions on SB252, or any other issue, please contact me at repdianehd26@gmail.com

I will have a series of town halls and coffees this summer. I look forward to listening to you.

Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, represents Eagle and Routt counties in the state House of Representatives.

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The VailDaily Updated May 9, 2013 03:51PM Published May 9, 2013 04:19PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.