Renewable energy mandate no problem for Holy Cross | AspenTimes.com

Renewable energy mandate no problem for Holy Cross

Janet Urquhart

Local providers of electricity aren’t exactly blowing a fuse over Amendment 37, the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would force Colorado’s largest suppliers of electricity to derive 10 percent of the energy they sell from renewable sources by 2015.Opponents of the amendment don’t have anything against clean, renewable energy sources such as hydro- and wind-generated power, but they claim the mandate could increase the cost of electricity for customers dramatically.The measure applies to utilities that serve 40,000 or more customers. The Aspen Municipal Electric Utility, with about 3,000 customers, is unaffected. And, the city utility already gets a whopping 57 percent of its electricity from renewable sources anyway.Holy Cross Energy, with about 50,000 accounts in the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail Valley and areas from Glenwood Springs to Battlement Mesa, would clearly be affected, but hasn’t taken a position on the amendment.The attempt to promote greater use of renewable energy is laudable, said Holy Cross spokesman Bob Gardner. The rural electric cooperative’s only complaint with the ballot measure is its unclear language, which leaves Holy Cross uncertain about its impacts.”It could cause us to reduce what we’re currently doing because we’re doing more than what the amendment is asking for,” Gardner said.The proposal would force utilities to obtain 3 percent of their electricity from renewable sources starting in 2007; up the total to 6 percent in 2011 and to 10 percent by 2015. At least 4 percent would have to come from solar technologies by 2015.The measure limits the amount the average residential bill can increase as a result of the new requirements to 50 cents a month.Holy Cross currently obtains about 6.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, according to Gardner. For some 2,700 customers who choose to pay extra for wind power, the amount of renewable energy provided by Holy Cross is even greater.”We’re shooting to get to about 20 percent of renewables by 2015,” Gardner said.Affected utilities can hold an election to exempt themselves from the requirements of Amendment 37; its customers would vote on the matter. In addition, municipal utilities and electric cooperatives that already have renewable standards that are “substantially similar” to Amendment 37’s mandates may opt out of the program by self-certifying with the Public Utilities Commission.To take that route, a provider must offer an optional program that allows consumers to support renewable energy technology. Holy Cross meets the requirement by allowing its customers to pay extra for more wind power.Holy Cross will probably consider opting out of Amendment 37’s requirements if the measure passes, according to Gardner.Xcel Energy, which also has some customers in the Roaring Fork Valley, is a leading critic of the measure, contending it will increase the cost of electricity.While the measure caps the amount that an average residential customer will pay as a result of the requirements, it provides no such limit for business, industry, government or wholesale buyers, opponents note.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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