Polis signs suite of climate, energy bills

Dennis Webb | May 31, 2019 | The Daily Sentinel

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday signed several bills addressing climate and energy in the state as he unveiled what he’s calling a roadmap for Colorado reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

Among the measures he signed are House Bill 1261, which sets goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. It directs the Air Quality Control Commission to develop rules limiting carbon pollution.

A separate bill signed by Polis requires the commission to collect carbon emissions data across Colorado and propose the most cost-effective way of meeting state emission-reduction goals.

Polis also signed Senate Bill 236, which reauthorizes the Public Utilities Commission, and includes a number of provisions including requiring it to consider the social cost of carbon in evaluating utilities’ energy resource planning, which will have implications for coal-fired power.

“We are very excited about the opportunity for Colorado to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040,” Polis said at a signing ceremony for multiple bills where he spoke about his clean-energy roadmap.

He said the result of his administration’s plan, which will be executed through legislation and executive actions, will be cleaner air for Coloradans, green jobs that won’t be outsourced, and lower electricity rates.

The climate-change bill builds on goals set out by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in a 2017 executive order, which included the goal of 26 percent emissions reduction by 2025.

The bill was sponsored by state Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Angela Williams, D-Denver. A joint news release from the two said the bill’s signing makes Colorado a national leader in climate change legislation.

But Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Mining Association, which advocates in part on behalf of the state’s coal industry, said Thursday, “I think the whole package of energy bills will change Colorado’s energy future and Colorado’s economy, not for the better. They’ll change it dramatically.”

He said the climate-change measure was drafted behind closed doors.

“We sought meetings with the sponsors of the bill. They didn’t want to accommodate even having a meeting.”

He said the social-cost-of-carbon provision, which the PUC already was authorized to consider but now must consider, “is a calculation designed to say coal (power) should cost more than renewables. It’s arbitrary. You just say I want ‘x’ amount to be accounted for in resource planning, this is the cost of carbon.”

Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, one of the PUC bill’s sponsors, said at the signing, “We are accounting for truly what it costs for consumers, for people who live near generation facilities, for all of us Coloradans … when we’re making decisions about where our energy comes from.”

Another aspect of the PUC requires wholesale electric cooperatives including Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association to begin providing regulators with energy resource plans for their approval. That requirement comes as Tri-State is hearing concern from some of the local energy co-ops it serves over the cost of its wholesale power and the sizable level of coal power remaining in its power portfolio.

“Tri-State monitored the commission bill, and when it was amended in the final days of the legislative session, we came to consensus with the Governor’s Office on language regarding cooperative resource planning,” Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said.

Other bills signed by Polis Thursday address building energy codes, water and energy efficiency standards for appliances, and the ability of housing authorities to access low-cost financing for energy-efficiency investments.

Polis on Thursday also signed measures increasing the maximum allowable size of community solar programs.

Today, he’s scheduled to sign bills extending state income tax credits for purchase or lease of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids through 2025, and requiring regulated electric utilities to develop and implement plans for investment in electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project said in a news release.

Jim Alexee, director of the Colorado Sierra Club, said in a news release, “Coloradans have been waiting for climate leadership, and the leaders that Coloradans sent to the Capitol delivered on their promises to take action. The legislation passed in the 2019 legislative session sets Colorado on a path to reach Governor Polis’ goal of powering our state with 100 percent renewable energy.”

Polis also noted before signing the bills that Glenwood Springs will become the second community in the state, following Aspen, to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable power. The city this week said it will be taking advantage of wind power it will buy from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

It made its announcement at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which due to the move becomes one of the first amusement parks in the country to use 100 percent renewable power.