Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush: Clearing up Senate Bill 252
May 4, 2013
There is misinformation about the amended, final Senate Bill 252.
Let me share what I know from my research and outreach, which led me to demand changes to the bill. I told the speaker that I would not vote for the bill unless changes were made. I convinced him on two amendments that I negotiated and ran on the floor. One got bipartisan support.
As soon as I read the bill, I began my due diligence by getting information from all stakeholders. Then I met with the speaker and outlined the two amendments I wanted to see before I would vote "yes": lowering the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association requirement from 25 to 20 percent and lessening the distributed generation requirement for the very small rural co-ops. I wanted to lessen cost impacts for rural families affected. I heard them clearly in the six-hour House Transportation and Energy Committee hearing on the bill. I co-sponsored the 20 percent amendment, and then I introduced the distributed generation amendment. Both were compromises arrived at via negotiation. Both passed. They improved the bill.
On May 4, based on those amendments, The Denver Post changed its editorial position from opposed to supportive, urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign the bill.
It is important to note that the 20 percent wholesale requirement does not affect consumers in Eagle or Routt counties for two reasons:
First, the Holy Cross and Yampa Valley Electric Association co-ops do not buy power from Tri-State, so customers will not be affected by the Tri-State requirement. YVEA and Holy Cross contract for power with Xcel, which means both meet SB252 requirements for wholesale power because Xcel is meeting its larger 30 percent renewable requirement.
Second, the 20 percent by 2020 requirement does not apply to any co-op with fewer than 100,000 meters. All of those co-ops remain under the existing 10 percent requirement regardless of where they buy their power.
That said, for the Tri-State co-ops, customers could be affected by Tri-State passing its costs of meeting the 20 percent requirement on to member co-ops. There are widely varying estimates of those costs. That is why there is a 2 percent monthly rate cap in the bill.
If a Tri-State co-op has to raise prices to meet any portion of the standard and those price increases to customers reach 2 percent, the co-op can desist from further expenditures. Using the average annualized Colorado household electric bill of $60 per month, this would be no more than $1.20. Yet the misinformation still abounds, saying the bill would cost Tri-State families "hundreds of dollars" every month. The only way a $120 monthly increase could happen is if the Tri-State family's bill now was $6,000 per month.
The 1 percent distributed generation requirement affects all rural co-ops, including YVEA and Holy Cross. It will create jobs in many rural areas of our state, especially in construction. The pyrolysis of landfill materials and coal mine methane capture also could lead to new jobs. Biomass plants like the one in Gypsum will lead to more demand for beetle-killed timber. There are two components of the 1 percent requirement:
First, co-ops need to provide as much as one-half percent of their power from local, community-based projects. YVEA has been working on a solar garden project that partially will fulfill this requirement. According to Holy Cross Director Del Worley and board President Mike Glass, Holy Cross has several renewable distributed generation projects that can meet this requirement.
Second, co-ops must get up to one-half percent from home- or business-owned renewable installations. A number of YVEA and Holy Cross customers now net meter from their home or business photovoltaic/wind/hydro. This number will increase.
Both types of distributed generation will increase local renewable installation and new/retrofit construction jobs and help existing businesses and jobs in Routt and Eagle counties. Both could spur investments in local biomass plants that use beetle-killed timber.
If you have questions about SB252, or any other issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will have a series of town halls and coffees this summer. I look forward to listening to you.
Diane Mitsch Bush represents House District 26, which includes Routt and Eagle counties.