The first week of May marked the close of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ first legislative session. During the 120-day session Colorado legislators passed more than 13 energy-related bills. These bills covered a wide range of pro-advanced energy topics, from exploring and enabling utility business model reform, to updating the state’s building codes for energy efficiency, to expanding tax-credits for electric vehicles (EV) and reducing barriers to EV charging infrastructure. Advanced energy legislation is sweeping the West – and Colorado is no exception.
Like the governors of neighboring New Mexico and Nevada, Gov. Polis campaigned on a platform that was pro-business and pro-renewable energy. Throughout 2018, AEE’s Gubernatorial Education program put forward a holistic advanced energy roadmap, offering policy recommendations that delivered on the Governor’s promise to grow the state’s economy while investing in 100% renewable energy. This educational effort has enabled AEE to build strong relationships with incoming governors in nine states, including Colorado, highlighting the advanced energy opportunity to expand economic development in their states.
While bills passed that supported all corners of the industry, AEE focused its efforts on a number of policies that represent millions in advanced energy market opportunity: 1) Colorado’s Climate Action Plan (HB 1261, Becker); 2) EV Tax Credit (HB 1159, Jaquez Lewis & Gray) and Charging Infrastructure (SB 77, Priola); 3) Building Energy Efficiency Update (HB 1260, Kipp); and 4) Colorado’s Energy Impact Assistance (HB 1037, Hansen), which was rolled into a bill that reauthorized the state’s public utilities commission (PUC) (SB 236, Garcia).
Following significant work by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and other legislative leaders, the session’s marquee bill, HB 1261, to reduce carbon outputs 50% from 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050, was sent to the Governor on May 13 and signed, along with six other pro-advanced energy bills on May 30. The advanced energy business community got very engaged, signing a letter to the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President stating their support for this measure, which would lead to substantial advanced energy investments throughout Colorado.
Despite some tense debates and working against the clock, Colorado’s legislature passed bills that will further electrification of transportation in the state (see also this round-up of pro-EV action across states). Introduced for the third consecutive year, SB 77 removed regulatory barriers that limit charging infrastructure in the state, directs utilities to develop transportation electrification programs that are consistent with IRP plans, and guides Commission review of those program proposals. Extending the state’s EV tax credit, HB 1159 ensures Coloradans are able to adopt EVs as costs decline and more options become available. These two bills found their way to the Governor’s desk following a plethora of phone calls, letters, and lobby days by AEE and our members.
In an effort to reduce energy waste in Colorado, lawmakers passed HB 1260, which updates the statewide minimum for building codes for energy efficiency. This package also allows local city and county agencies to exceed this minimum and verify compliance with all applicable building codes. This will create billions in savings for businesses and residents in Colorado.
The vehicle for the reauthorization of the state’s PUC, SB 236, also included several measures to modernize utility regulation in the state. It requires: 1) the state’s utilities to file distribution system plans for PUC approval for anticipated distribution investments; 2) the PUC to study the impacts of performance-based metrics to better understand and identify mechanisms that encourage the state’s utilities to make investment decisions that benefit the public good, increase energy savings, and improve safety and reliability; 3) the PUC to establish a cost of carbon beginning in 2020 of at least $46 per ton and to require the state’s utilities to include that cost when evaluating electric generation and heating resources; 4) the PUC to explore whether the state’s utilities should join an energy imbalance market or regional transmission organization, and 5) Xcel Energy to submit to the PUC for approval a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030. The bill also authorizes the creation of a ratepayer-backed bonding mechanism (securitization) to expedite the closure of outmoded power plants as the state transitions to cleaner, more economic resources.
By the close of legislative session, Colorado lawmakers had embraced a suite of energy policies that will increase the availability of cost-effective advanced energy options for businesses and consumers. Thanks to the collaborative work of stakeholders, legislators, and the Administration, Colorado racked up a number of advanced energy wins that promise to grow the state’s economic opportunities far into the future.