It’s only how many days into the 2017 legislative session? And to think we’re already a tad weary of the partisan tit-for-tat. Not that it was unexpected, but we could use a reminder that both sides of the aisle can work together, at times, as well.
And here it is: Senate Bill 89, introduced in the state Senate by newly elected Sen. Stephen Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, and veteran Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud Republican. The bill represents a small patch of common ground between the green left and free-market right.
SB 89 would allow Colorado consumers “to install and use electricity storage systems on their property,” meaning, essentially, big batteries for use in a pinch during blackouts. According to the the bill’s official summary, it will, “enhance the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid, save money, and reduce the need for additional electric generation facilities.”
From its authors’ perspective — they’re worlds apart on probably most other issues, including those involving energy policy — it introduces a dose of conservation as well as economic freedom into what is largely a government-regulated market for power generated by monopoly public utilities.
Or, as Amy Oliver Cooke of the free-market Independence Institute in Denver put it in a recent commentary:
Proving that politics can lead to strange bedfellows, both the Independence Institute and the Sierra Club initially have endorsed it.
We like the intent of bill and its sponsors, which is to affirm the rights of residential ratepayers to install batteries for later use or in case of an outage. It would also prohibit a state regulated monopoly utility like Xcel from throwing up regulatory barriers and charging onerous fees or requiring additional meter installations that it doesn’t currently charge customers without storage.
Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis, Minn.-based investor-owned public utility that is Colorado’s largest single power provider, is wary of the measure, in part because of concerns it might force other ratepayers to cross-subsidize power stored on such batteries. It’s part of a broader debate over a policy called “net metering.” It’s complicated, and we won’t go there at the moment.
For now, we’ll just savor the spirit of cooperation, the issue’s merits aside.
Hey, is that the sound of “Kumbaya,” we hear wafting out of the Capitol? OK, not for long.