Senate OKs Renewable Energy Power Line Bill
Apr 13, 2007 - Charles Ashby,
The Pueblo Chieftain
After more than two months of debate,
compromise, rewriting and more rewriting, a measure
to help erect power transmission lines in rural
Colorado from renewable energy plants won preliminary
approval in the Senate on Thursday.
The measure, which cleared the Colorado
House 65-0 in early February, would create a special
authority with the ability to issue bonds to help
utilities get the financing they need to build high-voltage
electric transmission lines in parts of Colorado
that are too remote to easily access the state's
Though there are other measures designed
to help utilities pay for new transmission lines,
this authority is intended to help such rural counties
as Baca get lines built so they can attract wind
farms to Southeast Colorado.
"I think this bill is going to allow
Colorado to catch up with Wyoming and New Mexico,
and be a force in renewable energy," said Sen. Ken
Kester, R-Las Animas, who introduced HB1150 with
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. "We've worked hard on
this. The Baca County commissioners worked hard
on this. They stayed on top of this and they stayed
in touch. We just need to get the energy where it's
produced to where it's used."
The bill, which still requires a final
Senate vote, would create the Colorado Clean Energy
That seven-member board would do for
renewable energy transmission lines what the Colorado
Power and Water Development Authority does for water
The board would be chaired by the
director of the governor's Office of Energy Management
and Conservation, who currently is former Rep. Tom
Plant, D-Nederland. Other members would include
Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Agriculture Commissioner
John Stulp, who is a former Prowers County commissioner.
Remaining members would be appointed
by House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, Senate
President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, House Minority
Leader Mike May, R-Parker, and Senate Minority Leader
Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs.
The measure also includes immediately
issuing bonds for two pilot projects in the state:
up to $40 million for wind energy lines, and up
to $25 million for a solar power plant. Though the
measure doesn't explicitly say so because Colorado
law forbids new laws to be designed to benefit specific
projects, those pilot projects are intended for
a wind farm in Baca and a solar plant in the San
Luis Valley, said Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, who
helped Gardner and Kester expand the renewable authority's
"This is going to be one of the biggest
and most important bills done this year," Romer
said. "This really opens up the real issue for us
to compete with Texas, Wyoming and New Mexico for
clean energy. Marketplaces for capital is very competitive,
and this puts us on a level playing field."
Initially, the measure, which had
been endorsed by Gov. Bill Ritter in his first State-of-the-State
speech to the Legislature in January, called for
creating an infrastructure authority that focused
solely on renewable energy.
But Romer said he wanted to make sure
its reach also included ways to help move other
clean energy, such as pipelines for ethanol made
from corn or other produce grown in rural Colorado.
"While I'm very supportive of renewable,
but at best renewable is only going to do 20 to
30 percent of our energy," Romer said. "We're going
to need clean technologies as well. So I really
appreciate Senator Kester's willingness to allow
me to help broaden that conversation."
Gardner, who like Kester scoffed at
Romer's proposed changes at first, admitted the
measure is even better than before.
The Yuma Republican's district, which
includes Kiowa and Crowley counties, represents
farmers who are already involved in ethanol production.
"This bill is generating excitement
over renewable energy and the prospect of bringing
new opportunities to rural communities," Gardner
said. "Overall, this is a stronger, better package
that will make even more of a difference for Southern