The Democrat-controlled Colorado Senate on Jan. 15 blocked a bill that would have reversed the state’s controversial renewable energy mandate for rural electric cooperatives.

Colorado has had a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) since 2004, when it became the first state in the U.S. to mandate a percentage of renewable generation in retail electricity sales, but the requirements were much stricter for investor-owned utilities than for electric cooperatives. While Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, must meet a 30% standard by 2020, the requirement for cooperatives was 10% or less depending on their size. Last year, the legislature doubled that requirement to 20% by 2020.

While the state RPS has broad support in urban and suburban areas, the 2013 revision was deeply unpopular in rural Colorado. In November, five counties in the northeastern corner of the state voted in favor of seceding from the rest of Colorado (the effort was mostly symbolic), citing the RPS as one of their grievances.

The repeal bill in Colorado this week was only the latest effort by opponents of RPSs to repeal or roll back renewable energy standards across the country. Last year, at least 37 similar bills were introduced in 20 states. None succeeded, although a few came close, while in a number of the states (such as Colorado), the RPS was actually expanded. The campaign is largely being driven by conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has promoted model legislation to repeal or roll back renewable mandates. After the effort produced no results, ALEC announced late in the year that it would focus on less-ambitious methods to rein in renewable-friendly regulations and legislation.

Republicans in Colorado promised to continue efforts to block the state RPS. A similar bill, which would lower the mandate to 15%, remains alive in the House.

—Thomas W. Overton, gas technology editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)

Photo © UCAR