Friday, January 30, 2015

New Renewable Energy Proposals in Colorado's 2015 Legislative Session

No sooner did the new legislative session begin than we saw some proposed changes to -- some would say attacks on -- Colorado's renewable energy standards.  Three bills were recently introduced in the legislature in the new session -- all by Republicans -- and they truthfully could be considered an attack on the RPS. First was a bill introduced in the state Senate (SB15-044) that would reduce the RPS obligation for IOUs from 30% to 15%. I don't see this bill having a snowball's chance in hell of passing. Even if it did survive the Republican controlled Senate, it would surely die in the Democrat controlled House and/or be vetoed by the governor. Moreover, it seems unlikely that Xcel Energy, the state's dominant utility which supported the increase to 30% and has already met the RPS for 10 years out, would support it.  Only Black Hills Colorado Electric, the smaller IOU serving the Pueblo area, would benefit. But, with that said, SB15-044 was just passed out of committee without amendment, predictably on a 5-4 party line vote, and sent on to the full Senate for consideration there.

Another bill introduced in the Senate (SB15-046) would classify solar gardens in coop territory as retail distributed generation and grant a 3x multiplier for coop compliance with the RES (see my 2013 posts on this topic here and here).  My intel says that the 3x multiplier will probably not survive but, given the controversy over the increase in coop RES obligation back in 2013, classifying solar gardens as "retail DG" as it is defined in the Colorado RES could be OK.

In the House (HB15-1118) would expand hydro for compliance with the RES from new hydro less than 30MW, as presently defined, to all hydro regardless of size or vintage. It would also add pumped hydro to the list of resources eligible for compliance with the RES. Back when I worked for the PUC, we seemed to come across this bit of nonsense every couple of years or so and had to go through the drill of explaining why pumped hydro is not considered renewable energy. But, it keeps returning. Simply put, if the water is pumped uphill at night using fossil generated electricity, releasing it in the afternoon doesn't make it renewable energy.  If the water is pumped uphill using wind energy, then it is the wind generator that gets the RECs.  Awarding the RECs to both would amount to double counting which is generally considered verboten.  Moreover, the water is pumped uphill using undifferentiated grid power. This bill was assigned to what is typically regarded as a "kill committee" in the House so I expect it will die an early death.

More recently, SB15-120 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Matt Jones (D) that would require each provider of retail electric service in Colorado to develop an electric grid modernization plan. This is an interesting bill, the stated goals of which are to  1) Optimize demand side management, 2) Optimize supply side management, and 3) Achieve advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) functionality within 5 years.  Certainly it is difficult to argue with optimizing supply side and demand side management (which refers to enabling energy efficiency and renewable energy integration) but the goal to advance AMI is likely to be controversial -- and potentially costly to ratepayers.  With AMI, more commonly referred to as smart meters, utilities could implement time of use (TOU) rates. AMI is also the foundation for building out the "smart grid."  This bill has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee and it will be worth watching to see how it fares.

UPDATE 01FEB2015: I see that the Denver Post has now waded in on this with an editorial that you can find here

UPDATE 11FEB2015: As of this morining neither SB15-046 nor HB15-1118 had been taken up in their respective committees.  On 05Feb, SB15-044 sailed through the full Senate and passed out of the Senate on an 18-17 vote (presumably party line vote though I didn't check the party affiliation for each of the votes) and was sent on to the House.  On 10Feb it was assigned to the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee (kill committee) where it will presumably languish until the end of the session.