Colorado has voted to strengthen its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of the few states to do so.
A bill to raise the RPS for rural electricity coops to 25% by 2020, up from 10%, passed both the state Senate and House and is supported by Governor Hickenlooper. Over 100,000 households are served by rural coops.
This is the third time Colorado raised the threshold as it’s come close to being met. In 2004, the state was the first to implement a RPS through a voter-approved referendum, requiring 10% renewable energy by 2015. That was raised to 20% in 2007 and to 30% in 2010 for large utilities.
Colorado’s biggest utility, Excel, says it is close to achieving 30% – seven years ahead of the deadline. It’s time to raise that target to prevent a plateau.
Only California has a higher RPS at 33% by 2020.
The RPS has been a boon for Colorado, which now hosts 1600 clean energy companies that employ more than 19,000 people, ranking the state #4 in the US for renewable energy jobs.
As in North Carolina, which voted down repeal of its RPS last week, these facts were enough to counter the push among conservatives, such as ALEC’s model law that’s moving forward in 16 states to repeal RPSs and an on-going lawsuit by American Tradition Institute that argues the standard is unconstitutional.
Denver Airport leads the nation for solar with 8 MW installed:
Also, renewable energy has turned out to lower utility bills, rather than raise them – one of the main talking points used against them. Representative Max Tyler pointed out that his utility bill is now less than those served by rural electric coops because renewable energy prices have dropped steadily, reports ClimateProgress. For years, utility Xcel has been buying wind for prices lower than conventional energy.
A wide range of renewables are included in the RPS. In addition to solar, wind and geothermal, it covers small hydropower, electricity from waste heat, hydrogen fuel cells and biogas.
It increases gradually from 12% by 2014 to 20% by 2019 and 30% by 2020. Small distributed renewables, such as rooftop solar, must comprise at least 3% of investor-owned utilities’ sales by 2020. That will add about 100,000 more small systems by then.
The state is home to some of the biggest renewable energy projects in the US, such as 400 MW Limon wind project.
Vestas opened the world’s largest wind tower plant there in 2010 and spent more than $1 billion on four factories in Colorado, but had to lay off over 1000 people last year because of the impending expiration of the production tax credit for wind.
State RPSs are considered the most important tool for significantly increasing the share of renewables in the US.