While the headlines focused on high-profile legislation related to tuition rates for illegal immigrant students, telecommunications regulations, and civil unions, a number of energy-related bills were rather quietly introduced during the Colorado General Assembly's 2012 session. None of this year's energy-related legislation promised to be a "game changer" with respect to Colorado's energy policy. Collectively, however, these legislative efforts reflect the continuing evolution and maturing of Colorado's energy policy from the "New Energy Economy" era that successfully established Colorado as a leader in clean and renewable energy, to the "All of the Above" era which recognizes current economic realities and the valuable role that all of Colorado's traditional and renewable energy resources have to offer. The following is a brief overview of the winners and losers among some of this year's energy-related legislation.
House Bill 12-1105: As a growing number of states have done, this bill decides who owns the wind blowing across your property. The bill defines a "wind energy right" as a property interest in the development of wind-powered energy generation and provides that such right cannot be severed from and belong to the owner of the surface estate. The bill further provides that wind energy may be developed through a wind energy agreement such as a lease, license, or other agreement, and establishes certain requirements related to recording and termination of wind energy agreements. This bill is awaiting the Governor's signature.
House Bill 12-1258: Seen by its sponsors and supporters as an important step toward the development of an alternative fuel vehicle market and supporting infrastructure in Colorado, this bill clarifies that persons selling electricity or natural gas for use as a vehicle fuel are not considered public utilities subject to regulation by the PUC. The bill also specifies certain interconnection and net-metering requirements applicable to persons that operate retail distributed generation from renewable energy resources in connection with an electric vehicle charging facility. Signed by the Governor on May 3.
House Bill 12-1312: Intended as another incremental step to streamline the approval process for new electric transmission lines, this bill clarifies that the PUC shall not consider land use issues such as the location or alignment of a proposed electric transmission line when evaluating an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, and that land use issues are properly considered by the relevant local government. Signed by the Governor on April 12.
House Bill 12-1315: The bill renames the Governor's Energy Office to be the Colorado Energy Office and changes its mission to be the promotion of all Colorado energy resources and Colorado economic development through energy-related job creation. The bill creates an Innovative Energy Fund to support the development and promotion of technologies that enable the use of local fuel sources, establish more efficient or environmentally beneficial uses of energy, and advance the state's energy independence and security. The bill also creates a Clean and Renewable Energy Fund to promote the development, investment, and implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This bill is awaiting the Governor's signature.
House Bill 12-1334: Provides a five year extension of funding to promote the feasibility and development of agricultural energy-related projects through the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Advancing Colorado's Renewable Energy Program. This bill is awaiting the Governor's signature.
House Bill 12-1102: Sought to cap the increases in electric utility rates as a result of costs incurred by electric utilities implementing the 2010 Colorado Clean Air – Clean Jobs Act (CACJA) which requires Xcel Energy and Black Hills Electric to take various steps to reduce emissions from their coal-fired power plants. This bill failed to reach a vote in the House Transportation Committee.
House Bill 12-1121: Sought to enact an electric utility "Ratepayers' Bill of Rights" that would have established certain principles to be followed by the PUC and electric utilities when proposing and considering utility rate increases. This bill failed to reach a vote in the House Transportation Committee.
House Bill 12-1160: Sought to add methane gas captured from active and inactive coal mines to the list of eligible energy resources that can be used by retail electric utilities to meet the Colorado Renewable Energy Standard (RES). Despite passing in the House and extensive negotiations between a broad range of stakeholders representing electric utilities, renewable energy developers, environmental advocacy groups, and other interests, a compromise could not be reached and the bill was not brought to a vote in the Senate.
House Bill 12-1172: Sought to require the PUC to consider only existing, as opposed to possible future, federal laws and regulations related to greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating an electric utility's resource plans. Like HB12-1102, this bill was a reaction to the controversy associated with the CACJA. It passed in the House but failed to reach a vote in the Senate's State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
House Bill 12-1264: Sought to revise the standards applicable to interconnecting customer-owned distributed generation from renewable resources with electric utilities' distribution networks, and create a task force to explore ways to facilitate the development of additional renewable energy distributed generation in Colorado. This bill was postponed indefinitely shortly after being introduced and assigned to the House Agriculture Committee.
House Bill 12-1351: Sought to expand the definition of "recycled energy" to include power produced from the combustion of gas derived from waste materials through pyrolysis as an additional eligible energy resource that can be used by retail electric utilities to meet the Colorado RES. This bill passed in the house but failed to reach a final vote in the Senate.
Senate Bill 12-178: Sought to remove the multipliers that created a preference for certain renewable energy resources located in Colorado for purposes of complying with the Colorado RES. This bill was motivated, in part, by a lawsuit now pending in federal court challenging Colorado's RES on the grounds that it violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. This bill did not reach a final vote in the Senate.
Senate Bill 12-180: As part of a variety of initiatives intended to address risks to Colorado's forests and water systems, this bill sought to amend the Colorado RES by defining "forest biomass," which includes dead and diseased trees resulting from insect infestation, as an eligible energy resource for RES compliance purposes. This bill was postponed indefinitely shortly after being introduced and assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee.