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Colorado voters back renewable energy

Colorado looks set for a five-fold expansion of the state’s use of renewable energy resources such as wind following the approval by voters of a ballot measure this week.
/ Source: Reuters

Colorado looks set for a five-fold expansion of the state’s use of renewable energy resources such as wind following the approval by voters of a ballot measure this week.

The initiative, known as Amendment 37, calls for major Colorado utilities to raise use of renewable energy to 10 percent by 2015, up from about 2 percent at present. It passed by a narrow margin of around 52 percent to 48 percent.

“It is an ambitious initiative and now there are a lot of questions about how to implement it in our day to day operations,” said Jim Van Someren, spokesman for Westminster, Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc.

Van Someren said questions included how increased costs would be handled with the ballot measure capping costs for residential customers but not businesses.

Tri-State, which supplies power to 18 electric co-operatives in Colorado, currently generates less than one percent of its power from renewables with coal-fired power plants providing about 80 percent.

Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, is already in the process of rapidly expanding its renewable portfolio.

The utility has bid for up to 500 megawatts of renewable power and earlier this week announced it had received responses from 17 wind projects for 2,000 MW.

“We are already well on our way to exceed the amendment by the end of next year as it relates to wind power,” said Xcel spokeswoman Margarita Alarcon.

Alarcon noted, however, it would take longer to meet a requirement that four percent of the renewable energy should come from solar energy.

She said that solar cost 4 to 5 times more than rival resources such as wind.

Jon Chase, deputy director of legislative affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said there was the potential for a lot more wind power in Colorado. “It has got some good areas for it,” he said.

One of the environmental groups which backed the measure, the Union of Concerned Scientists, said success would open the door for similar proposals in other states.

Alan Nogee, UCS’ Energy Program Director, noted that of the 23 states with the initiative process, 17 still do not have a renewable energy standard.

He noted one likely target for such as initiative might be Washington state, where recent attempts at legislation to introduce a renewable standard were narrowly defeated.