Colorado Renewable Energy Requirement, Initiative 37 (2004)

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The Colorado Renewable Energy Requirement Initiative, also known as Initiative 37, was on the November 2, 2004 ballot in Colorado as an initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure required that a percentage of retail electricity sales be derived from renewable sources, beginning with 3% in the year 2007 and increasing to 10% by 2015. The measure defined renewable resources as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, small hydroelectricity and hydrogen fuel cells.[1]

See Energy policy in Colorado for a full explanation of energy policy across the state.

Election results

Colorado Initiative 37 (2004)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,066,023 53.61%
No922,57746.39%

Election Results via: Colorado Secretary of State

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1][2]

An amendment to the Colorado revised statutes concerning renewable energy standards for large providers of retail electric service, and, in connection therewith, defining eligible renewable energy resources to include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, small hydroelectricity, and hydrogen fuel cells; requiring that a percentage of retail electricity sales be derived from renewable sources, beginning with 3% in the year 2007 and increasing to 10% by 2015; requiring utilities to offer customers a rebate of $2.00 per watt and other incentives for solar electric generation; providing incentives for utilities to invest in renewable energy resources that provide net economic benefits to customers; limiting the retail rate impact of renewable energy resources to 50 cents per month for residential customers; requiring public utilities commission rules to establish major aspects of the measure; prohibiting utilities from using condemnation or eminent domain to acquire land for generating facilities used to meet the standards; requiring utilities with requirements contracts to address shortfalls from the standards; and specifying election procedures by which the customers of a utility may opt out of the requirements of this amendment.[3]

Background

The following background information was provided on the state Blue Book:[2]

Colorado is served by 60 utilities that generate electricity using primarily coal and natural gas, and some hydroelectric power. Colorado utilities are not required to use renewable energy sources to generate electricity; however, roughly 2 percent of electricity currently generated in Colorado comes from the renewable energy sources defined in this proposal. To date, 16 other states have adopted renewable energy requirements. The maximum amount and source of the renewable energy vary by state, ranging from 1.1 percent of the total electricity generated in Arizona (mostly solar) to 30 percent in Maine (mostly hydroelectric).

The proposal requires Colorado utilities with 40,000 or more customers to generate or purchase a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources according to the following schedule:

3 percent from 2007 through 2010; 6 percent from 2011 through 2014; and 10 percent by 2015 and thereafter.

Of the electricity generated each year from renewable sources, at least 4 percent must come from solar technologies. Initially, nine Colorado utilities serving over 80 percent of the state's electric customers will be required to comply with this proposal.[3]

Arguments for

The following arguments in favor of Amendment 37 were provided on the state Blue Book:[2]

1) Using renewable energy makes economic sense. Conventional fuels are finite, while renewable energy sources are unlimited. As time passes, supplies of coal and natural gas will diminish and these resources will likely become more expensive. In contrast, the price of renewable energy will decrease as technologies improve. Generating a percentage of electricity from renewable resources contributes to energy diversity and reduces Colorado's vulnerability to fluctuations in the price or supply of fuel.

2) Electricity generated from renewable sources has less harmful environmental impacts than electricity generated from conventional fuels. The environmental benefits of using renewable energy include cleaner air and water, more efficient use of water, and less damage to the landscape. Both coal and natural gas-fired power plants emit significant amounts of air pollutants. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources is roughly equal to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions from 600,000 cars annually.

3) Using a variety of resources to meet Colorado's increasing electricity needs will improve the stability and security of Colorado's electricity supply. Increasing Colorado's use of renewable energy will reduce its dependence on conventional fuels. The state must prepare for the future by requiring a percentage of its electricity to be generated from renewable resources.

4) Renewable energy facilities, typically located in rural areas, boost rural economies. The construction and maintenance of renewable energy facilities will create jobs in rural Colorado. Some farmers and ranchers will be able to tap into a new source of income by using agricultural waste to generate electricity and by leasing their land for wind facilities. In addition, renewable energy facilities provide tax revenues that can be used by local governments to pay for services such as schools and hospitals.[3]

Arguments against

The following arguments against Amendment 37 were provided on the state Blue Book:[2]

1) Electricity generated from renewable resources is oftentimes more expensive than electricity generated from conventional fuels. Colorado utilities with over 40,000 customers will be required to generate electricity from renewable resources, regardless of cost. Currently, utilities generate electricity using the least expensive fuel source. The proposal requires at least 4 percent of renewable energy to come from solar sources, one of the most expensive renewable energy sources. The proposal also prohibits utilities from counting electricity generated from large hydroelectric projects that are already in place toward the new requirement.

2) Consumers may pay more for electricity under this proposal. Utilities will pass any additional costs on to consumers, such as those for building or acquiring more transmission lines. While the proposal caps the amount that an average residential electric bill can increase as a result of the renewable energy requirement, it provides no such cap for non-residential customers such as business, industrial, government, or wholesale.

3) Colorado requires a continual and reliable means of energy production. A certain amount of electricity must be available at all times, and a certain amount must be maintained in reserve. Renewable energy, especially wind and solar resources, are intermittent and may not be available when needed. This could cause problems during peak energy demand periods or in emergencies.

4) The use of renewable resources should be a choice not a mandate. Colorado utilities are already using renewable energy resources when they are cost-effective. Further, most utilities have programs that give customers the option to purchase all or a share of their electricity from renewable sources.[3]

Campaign Finance

Coloradans For Clean Energy spent a total of $1,446,578 in support of the measure, whereas Citizens For Sensible Energy Choices spent $1,284,341, and Intermountain Rural Electric Association spent $15,874, both in opposition of the measure.[4]

See also

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