Colorado Capitol

Another session of the Colorado General Assembly wrapped up on May 8, so it’s a good time to reflect on how electric co-ops fared. As always, the Colorado Rural Electric Association was busy watching out for the interests of our electric co-op members.

What does that mean?

It means reviewing each of the 704 bills introduced this year to determine if the proposed changes in Colorado law will have any impact on co-ops. It means countless meetings with legislators, legislative staff, and other stakeholders to express the views of Colorado’s electric co-ops. And, of course, it means being in constant communication with our board, our legislative committee, and our co-op CEOs to discuss proposed legislation and stake out our positions.

Over the course of the 2024 legislative session, the bills that were introduced dealt with a wide variety of issues. As an association of electric co-ops, we are primarily concerned with legislation that involves Colorado energy policy and how those policies can impact your co-op’s ability to provide the electricity that you rely on every day. However, we also follow bills that impact businesses more generally in areas including consumer protection, employment law, trucking regulations, and local government regulations, to name a few.

With respect to energy policy, there were three significant areas of discussion this session. First, there was a lot of debate about whether to accelerate the carbon reduction goals established in bills passed by the legislature in 2019. The proposed “Clean Energy Plan” bill would have accelerated the target for 100% clean energy from 2050 to 2040 and created interim goals. CREA participated in many discussions related to this bill to clarify how it would impact electric co-ops. Our position was that the bill was unnecessary since utilities are already going to reach those goals in the coming years with or without the legislation. Ultimately, the bill was not introduced.

Second, a bill was introduced that created new distribution system planning requirements for Xcel Energy. The basic premise of the bill is to require Xcel to upgrade its distribution system to accommodate more distributed energy resources and thereby accelerate the clean energy transition. CREA co-ops serve vast areas of Colorado and have the largest distribution network of all utilities in the state. We also have the fewest customers per mile of distribution line from whom to recover the costs of system upgrades. Colorado’s electric co-ops are very sensitive to any new requirements from the state to upgrade our distribution networks because those requirements result in higher rates for our co-op members. We advocated for an amendment to the bill to make sure it did not apply to electric co-ops. We were successful in those efforts and thank the legislature for recognizing the co-op difference.

Third, another bill was introduced that was intended to expedite the siting of renewable energy facilities in Colorado. We are in favor of steps to expedite the construction and siting of new renewable generation and transmission projects, but we also understand that local governments diligently guard their rights to develop appropriate permitting rules. This bill, SB24-212, directs the Colorado Energy Office to create a repository of model permitting ordinances for renewable energy projects, which may lead to a more uniform statewide siting framework.

In addition to the energy policy issues, we lobbied several bills that we determined would negatively impact co-op operations. One of those bills, HB24-1014, would have lowered the bar for lawsuits to be brought under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. While we certainly support the right of consumers to bring lawsuits when they have suffered damages, that right already exists outside the CCPA, which is intended to add remedies where the public interest is impacted. We concluded that HB24-1014’s deletion of the public interest requirement in the CCPA was not good public policy, and we were gratified that the bill did not pass.

We also asked for an amendment to HB24-1341 relating to the authority of local governments to adopt rules for idling vehicles in Colorado. While it may make sense for state or local governments to discourage folks from letting their passenger and commercial vehicles idle and therefore reduce pollution, in many cases the trucks used by electric co-ops and other utilities need to idle, while work is being performed. Again, we appreciate the consideration of the Colorado legislature in supporting this commonsense exemption to the idling law.

The members of the Colorado General Assembly have a demanding and often thankless job; we appreciate their dedication and commitment to serving the people of Colorado. We also appreciate their willingness to listen to the concerns of Colorado’s electric co-ops and their willingness to act in response to those concerns.

If you are interested in learning more about CREA’s legislative work, please visit our website at www.crea.coop.

Kent Singer is the executive director of CREA and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for 21 Colorado electric distribution co-ops and one power supply co-op.