State energy-efficiency-program renewal faces main legislative hurdle Thursday

Author: John Tomasic - April 19, 2017 - Updated: April 19, 2017

Installing apartment building smart meters. (AP Images)
Installing apartment building smart meters. (AP Images)

A bill that would renew a major state energy efficiency program will be heard Thursday afternoon in a Senate committee. The vote very likely will be make or break for the program, which supporters say has had significant positive job-creation and energy-saving effects in the state since it was unrolled in 2007.

House Bill 1227, inelegantly but accurately entitled the “Electric Demand-Side Management Program Extension” bill, is being heard in the Republican-controlled Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. If the bill passes, it will move on to the Senate floor where it is very likely to pass and then land quickly on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill exited the House two weeks ago on a solid bipartisan 42-22 vote, winning over all of the Democrats and six Republicans.

It is sponsored by Democrats and Republicans in both chambers — in the Democratic-controlled House by Westminster Democrat Faith Winter and Roxborough Park Republican Polly Lawrence and in the Republican-controlled Senate by Boulder Democrat Steve Fenberg and Henderson Republican Kevin Priola.

In 2007, the Legislature authorized the state’s Public Utilities Commission to create efficiency goals for the state’s two investor-owned electricity providers — Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. By 2018, the utilities had to reduce peak demand by at least 5 percent of the 2006 peak demand and they had to reduce energy sales by 5 percent compared to 2006 energy sales.

This year’s HB 1227 extends the programs to 2028, setting baseline goals of at least 5 percent peak demand reduction and 5 percent energy savings by 2028 compared to 2018.

The program basically moves the utilities to invest in the state’s energy efficiency sector — a wide industry spread to all corners of the state that includes builders, architects, technology companies, retrofit companies and so on. The sector has thrived under the rebates the program provides customers and it supports the program extension partly for the fact that it would mean more of the market stability the program has ensured during the last otherwise turbulent decade.

The state’s utilities also have generally supported the program, according to sources, for the fact that increasing energy efficiency is an easy way to deliver more energy to more customers at low cost. Energy created through conservation, as they say, is the cheapest new energy available — much cheaper than building new infrastructure and power plants.

Environmental groups are also rallying around the bill.

Capitol fiscal analysts estimate that it would cost no new revenues to renew the state’s Electric Demand-Side Management program.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.