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Colo. governor signs sweeping energy legislation

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Colo. governor signs sweeping energy legislation

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on May 30 signed into law a package of energy bills, including a sweeping overhaul of state utility regulation, as a part of his plan to put the state on track to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

Speaking at a community solar garden in Arvada, Colo., Polis, a Democrat, said the new laws mean cleaner air, green jobs that will not be outsourced and lower electricity rates driven by new wind energy projects that cost 20% less than existing coal plants.

"We're excited that many of our utilities are embracing cost-savings for consumers [and] being on the cutting edge of deploying renewable energy," Polis, flanked by legislative allies, told a crowd of supporters.

The most notable piece of legislation he signed into law is SB-236, a broad overhaul of state utility regulation that requires power companies to consider the social costs of carbon when submitting resource plans and to include in those plans roadmaps for reducing their emissions from 2005 levels 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The bill authorizes utilities to float bonds to help pay off coal plant debt and creates funding to invest in communities hard-hit by coal plant closures.

"One of the things I'm most excited about is that it puts a cost on carbon when evaluating future energy assets to make sure that we are accounting for what it truly costs for consumers, for people who live near generation facilities, for all of us as Coloradans, when we're making decisions about where our energy comes from," said Democratic Sen. Stephen Fenberg, the Senate majority leader and a sponsor of SB 236.

Denver Rep. Chris Hansen called the bill the "most historic piece of energy legislation in state history."

In an interview, Hansen said he does not believe the utility industry will lobby to roll back such legislation if Republicans gain power, pointing to Xcel Energy Inc.'s December 2018 announcement that it is aiming to deliver 100% carbon-free power by 2050.

"They were looking for a way to lock those gains in and have a clear path for investment," Hansen said. "That's what business wants: certainty, and to understand the environment so they can make long-term investments. And in the utility industry, that's decades-long investments. These are not short-term things; these are billions of dollars."

Polis also signed into law HB-1261, which establishes statewide goals for Colorado to reduce emissions from 2005 levels 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. It empowers the Air Quality Control Commission to create rules and policies to achieve those cuts.

And he signed HB-1003, which increases the size limits on community solar gardens to 5 MW from 2 MW, and allows the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to approve the formation of solar gardens up to 10 MW after July, 1, 2023.