Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed into law a measure to expand and improve the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) statute to drive clean-energy investment, jobs, and project development in rural Colorado.

“A year ago, the market outlook for renewable energy in Colorado was bleak,” said Sarah Propst, executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance. “Implementation of SB 252, combined with Xcel’s recent announcement that it will buy 550 MW of wind based on low price alone, means a complete turnaround for the Colorado market. Now we expect roughly 1,000 MW of market opportunity for clean energy over the next decade.”

SB 252, cosponsored by Senate President John Morse and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, protects energy consumers while increasing the RES to 20% by 2020 for the state’s largest cooperative electric associations.

While the low cost and stable rates of Colorado renewable energy are expected to save consumers money over time, the consumer-protection provision limits any near-term rate impacts to a maximum of 2% per year with no cap on rate decreases. The bill also would expand opportunities for distributed generation and eliminates unnecessary “extra-credit” preferences for new electricity generation built in Colorado.

"Between SB 252 and Xcel’s announcement, Colorado is building upon its successful experience over the last decade in harnessing local renewable energy,” said Virinder Singh of EDF Renewable Energy, Interwest’s Policy Committee Chair. “Both decisions will deliver strong rate benefits to electricity customers across the state, while also solidifying the state’s renewable energy industry, which is the envy of the nation."

The renewable industry has responded to the current RES with significant investments in electricity-generation projects and manufacturing facilities, employing nearly 10,000 Coloradans and pouring millions of dollars in annual lease and property tax payments into rural Colorado communities.

By 2012, Colorado had installed 2,301 MW of wind and 258 MW of solar, but the state’s wind ranking was slipping nationally, signaling a market slowdown. The increased standard in SB 252 will help revitalize the market, resulting in additional investments and jobs in the state, while further helping utilities deliver price stability with long-term, lower-priced renewable-power contracts.

“With the Governor’s signature on SB 252, Colorado is back on the map for renewable-energy investment,” said Kevin Lynch of Iberdrola Renewables, Interwest’s Board Chair. “Renewable energy companies are committed to helping Colorado protect the environment and diversify its energy portfolio, while creating jobs and economic benefits.”