Renewable energy bill fueling controversy

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- A renewable energy bill is fueling up controversy throughout Colorado. Senate Bill 252 requires rural electric co-ops to get 20 percent of energy from renewable energy sources by 2020. The bill would double the current standard of 10 percent.

Proponents of the bill say it will provide jobs and cleaner energy to the state. Opponents say it will raise electricity costs for rural Coloradans.

Delta Montrose Electric Association is among the co-ops which would be affected by the bill, if Governor Hickenlooper signs it into law. DMEA purchases its energy from Tri-State Generation, and if Tri-State is required to purchase additional capital to fund more renewable energy, DMEA may feel the burden.

“We're non-profit utilities so a cost that we occur, unless we can get really creative and figure out a way to absorb it, becomes a cost passed on to the customer,” said Jim Heneghan, Renewable Energy Engineer for DMEA.

The bill includes a two-percent cap on how much companies can raise customers’ utility bills. Still, House District 55 Representative Ray Scott said the bill is a step in the wrong direction.

“It becomes a special interest bill for the solar panel manufacturers and wind generation industry and that’s just not how we should do good policy here in western Colorado,” Scott said. “It affects all the farmers and ranchers out there as well as the rural businesses and it’s going to be hard for them to absorb those costs.”

Grand Valley Power is one of the few co-ops in the state not affected by the bill since the supplier gets its energy from Xcel and is already meeting the 20 percent standard. Grand Valley Power’s General Manager Tom Walch called the bill a “premeditated assault on a vulnerable constituency.”

Governor Hickenlooper has yet to sign or veto the bill.

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