Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Energy In Depth’s Simon Lomax pokes holes in the American Lung Association’s report on ozone–and the Denver Post’s reporting on it–with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
Citing its own April 29 “report card” on the region’s air quality, the ALA told the Denver Post that levels of ground-level ozone – sometimes called smog – are deteriorating rather than improving. But the ALA went much further, claiming that while the air above the Denver metro area “looks cleaner than in the 1970s,” the region actually has “higher ozone” and the gains made since the 1970s “are going away.”
In the same news story – authored by the Post’s environmental writer Bruce Finley – the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) warned the ALA’s report card was “both inaccurate and misrepresents air quality in Colorado.” But Finley’s story didn’t detail what those inaccuracies and misrepresentations actually were.
In a follow-up interview with Energy In Depth, CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) Director Will Allison revealed that the ALA report card ignored a full year of air quality data from 2014, which shows ozone levels getting better, not worse. To claim there’s higher ozone now than back in the 1970s also ignores decades of air quality data that show “it’s gotten a lot better,” Allison said.
To say the ALA took a liberal look at its own conclusions to bolster an argument for increased ozone regulation appears correct.
“If you look at 2011-2013 averages, we had 10 monitors in the Denver North Front Range that exceeded the ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. But if you look at the 2012-2014 averages, only four monitors exceeded the federal standards. So there was a significant drop from 10 noncompliant monitors to four,” Allison told EID.
Colorado’s 21-member oil and gas task force, which concluded its meetings in February, received modest support (about $2 million) in the Colorado legislature for a handful of its recommendations:
The budget includes:
$1,364,713 to pay for 12 new employees for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with overseeing the state’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas sector.
$360,910 for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to create a hot line and website with information about the industry, and a chance to raise concerns about its operations.
$402,859 for the CDPHE to create a mobile air monitoring unit to watch for air pollution from industry operations and a person to operate it.
These small changes stand in contrast to some of the more pointed and disruptive resolutions the committee considered, and to the ballot measures that tripped off the Governor’s “compromise” move last August.
Fracking opponents, of course, decried the legislative session’s activity on oil and gas issues, while the industry hailed the results, according to Valerie Richardson at The Colorado Statesman.
Kicking the can down the road to 2016 on fracking issues–with Democrats sidestepping a fractious debate, as Richardson put it–may still not prove advantageous to Democrats split over the issue. With eco-left activists vowing to work hard again next November and having felt betrayed by maneuvering in 2014, Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election efforts might not get the smooth ride his party was hoping to craft. It certainly didn’t help former Sen. Mark Udall, who carved a more eco-friendly niche in his term, but ultimately suffered defeat last year.
Speaking of Sen. Bennet–an attempt to bolster his green credibility with new legislation aimed at a national renewable energy standard:
The bill unveiled Tuesday that would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, starting with an 8 percent requirement by 2016 followed by gradual increases.
Sen. Tom Udall has introduced this legislation in every session of Congress since 2008. The bill is based on his bipartisan initiative that passed the House in 2007. Co-sponsors this time around include Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii).
“A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico — all while combating climate change,” Udall said in a news release. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES.”
Colorado’s western slope counties may avoid economic devastation if the Fish and Wildlife Service decides not to tap the greater sage-grouse with a designation as threatened or endangered:
The Interior Department has said it wants to reach the point that the Fish and Wildlife Service can find that no listing is warranted. Much of that decision lies with the way the BLM manages its lands and both agencies report to Jewell.
“We are very, very close to avoiding a listing altogether,” Hickenlooper said, noting that he spoke to [Secretary of Interior Sally] Jewell 10 days ago.
Finding that the bird should not be listed is Jewell’s goal, Hickenlooper said.
“I believe her. I don’t think she’s posturing.”
A listing by the FWS would be a critical blow to Colorado’s western counties, along with 10 other states, as one county commissioner told Gov. Hickenlooper.
“All of Moffat County is out of business,” Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe concluded, should the listing move forward contrary to Hickenlooper’s claims.
Colorado’s Electric Consumers’ Protection Act (ECPA), a bill to address Colorado compliance with the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), received its first hearing on Thursday, April 9, 2015 in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. Senators John Cooke (R-Greeley) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) are the prime sponsors of SB15-258. A number of people and organizations testified in favor of it including Catholic Charities, the Colorado Consumer Coalition, TriState Generation and Transmission Association, and our own Michael Sandoval. All made compelling arguments to support the ECPA. Below is the written testimony of one of the most compelling witnesses air regulatory attorney Mike Nasi.
The bill did pass out of committee with bi-partisan support on a 7-2 vote. Now it moves to Senate Appropriations.
For more information on the CPP and the ECPA, read the Independence Institute’s latest Issue Backgrounder “Colorado and the ‘Clean Power Plan’: Expensive, Ineffective, Illegal, and Impossible” by intern Lexi Osborn.
Also read Sen. Cooke and Sonnenberg’s commentary “No regulation without representation.”
Illegality of EPA’s Clean Power Plan & Benefits of the Electric Consumers’ Protection Act (ECPA) SB15-258
April 9, 2015
TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL J. NASI
Jackson Walker, L.L.P – Austin, Texas
My name is Mike Nasi. I am a partner at the law firm Jackson Walker, located in the firm’s Austin, Texas office where I head up the firm’s air regulatory practice. I am honored to be here before you today. I have been asked to testify here today because I have been a practicing air quality attorney working with EPA air quality regulations for over 22 years and represent power generation interests, including rural electric cooperatives, in pending DC Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding a number of recently-promulgated EPA air regulations targeting the electric generation sector.
As proposed, EPA’s Clean Power Plan is illegal. This is not just my opinion, but the position of thirty-two states’ elected officials; huge swaths of the electric power, manufacturing, and chemical industries; various businesses and community organizations; and even those in the President’s inner circle. As recently stated by Laurence Tribe – the renowned scholar and close advisor to the President:
“EPA is attempting [in the Clean Power Plan] an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts – all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.”
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is an unprecedented and unconstitutional attempt at a power grab by the EPA. In direct conflict with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, EPA intends to take over roles reserved to the states and remake them in their vision – including a takeover of electricity production, consumption and distribution. Under the guise of “state flexibility,” EPA hopes to coax states, or, if necessary, coerce them to develop state plans that would create authority EPA does not otherwise have to enforce the “outside the fence” elements of the CPP.
The Clean Air Act places limits on EPA’s authority; specifically, to “defining” the best system of emissions reduction – BSER – and promulgating a guideline document. It does not provide EPA the authority to set binding state-specific emissions rate targets or regulate electricity markets under the auspices of a federally enforceable state plan. By setting such stringent emissions limits under incredibly compressed timelines, and by preventing states from considering actions they’ve already taken before the 2012 baseline year – including retirements, significant build out of renewable generation and reductions in end-user demand – EPA has failed to provide the states with any of the state-led authority or flexibility required in the Clean Air Act. This authority and flexibility is central to the cooperative federalism required by the Clean Air Act.
At its core, EPA does not have the authority to require states to undertake the actions contemplated in its BSER model – the so-called four building blocks of the rule. Block 1 – increased coal power plant efficiency – is unreasonable and technologically impractical, if not impossible. The remaining three blocks, however, are where EPA truly contravenes the Clean Air Act by looking “beyond the fence” for emissions reductions. The plain language of Section 111(d) makes it clear that a standard of performance should only apply to an “existing source” “which emits or may emit an air pollutant.” There is no discussion of “groups of sources” or “markets related to an existing source,” but rather, requires that standards apply to individual “existing sources” in isolation – “within the fence.” Blocks 2 through 4 completely contradict the within-the-fence requirements. Regarding Block 2, EPA has no authority to require re-dispatch of generation, which is left largely to the free market or the regional transmission organizations (“RTO”) and independent system operators (“ISO”) that oversee dispatch [and Public Utility Commissions]. EPA simply is not provided the authority under the CAA to set mandatory state emission budgets based on the emission reductions it calculates are possible from fuel switching, renewable generation increases, or end-user energy efficiency. This is also in direct contravention of the Federal Power Act, which leaves to the states exclusive jurisdiction over intrastate electricity matters.
The legal problems with EPA’s rule start well before reaching the question of their “beyond the fence” state budgets, however, as EPA has three significant statutory hurdles it has not and cannot clear. The explicit language of the Clean Air Act prevents EPA from promulgating this rule. The Act states that EPA is prevented from applying Section 111(d) standards to source categories already regulated under Section 112 of the Act; fossil fuel power plants are regulated through Section 112 by the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule. EPA claims that the Act is ambiguous due to drafting errors, but the language as codified in the United States code is clear. Even accounting for drafting errors, the language still clearly prohibits EPA’s actions. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue, in a note to its decision in AEP v. Connecticut, in which it stated: “EPA may not employ [Section 111(d)] if existing stationary sources of the pollutant in question are regulated under the…the “hazardous air pollutants” program, [Section 112.]”
The Clean Air Act also requires a valid new-source 111(b) rule to be in place before EPA may proceed to an existing source rule under Section 111(d). These rules are still in the proposal stage, and even if finalized, are riddled with technical and legal flaws that in my opinion will result in the rules being vacated, which will remove this necessary legal prerequisite to any 111(d) rule. As recently pointed out by 13 state attorneys general (see attached March 25, 2015 letter), EPA also failed to finalize the 111(b) rule within one year of proposal in violation of its mandatory duty to do so under 111(b)(1)(B) of the CAA. As explained more fully in the AG letter, this violation stands to undermines EPA’s current schedule for finalizing the 111(b) and (d) rule this summer given that the 111(b) rule must be re-proposed and finalized before the 111(d) rule can be finalized. EPA has also failed to make a necessary Section 111-specific endangerment finding based on CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel source category. EPA attempts to rely on its endangerment finding for GHG emissions from motor vehicles as the endangerment finding for this rule. But this motor vehicle endangerment finding is based on a completely different section, even title, of the Clean Air Act; it was an endangerment finding for six separate greenhouse gases, not just CO2 as the Clean Power Plan addresses; and the statutory language of the endangerment finding itself is different, with the Section 111 standard imposing a greater burden on EPA. EPA attempts to say that there is a “rational basis” for this rule, but this is simply not true; the rule, even if fully implemented, will have an almost imperceptible impact on global climate.
Colorado’s ability to comply with the Clean Power Plan is in serious question, though due to no fault of your own, but it is why any attempt to comply should be transparent for every Coloradan to see. The sheer enormity of the emissions reductions and the incredibly short time constraints of the rule alone would be a daunting, if not impossible challenge, but the legal authority of state agencies to implement the rule is simply not there in many respects. As an initial matter, the Air Quality Control Commission’s authority, as implemented by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, is limited to drafting regulations directed at sources of air pollutants. There is no authority to go “beyond the fence,” which, like the federal government, significantly constrains the ability to develop any plan addressing Blocks 2 through 4 of EPA’s BSER model. The Public Utilities Commission is also subject to limitations on breadth of authority, that precludes it from addressing the environmental components and entities necessary to meet EPA’s budget.
I certainly would not recommend that Colorado create a plan that establishes authority that EPA itself does not have. Having said that, I see value in the passage of SB 258 the Electric Consumer Protection Act because it would ensure the PUC’s oversight and actions to ensure that rates stay competitive and reliability is maintained. Given the price increase and reliability risks in question, it makes good sense that the ECPA requires both PUC approval followed by the General Assembly’s approval because it will ensure that the public may participate in a transparent process and Colorado legislators have oversight over the submission of any plan.
I was encouraged to see that – the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Public Utilities Commission and the Colorado Energy Office – in official comments to the EPA about the CPP acknowledge that, “legislation may be needed to clarify or direct state agencies on their respective roles and authorities.” There will be lawsuits, and the ECPA contains a smart safety valve provision that suspends or terminates any further action on a State Implementation Plan if the regulations are not adopted, are suspended, or are found to be contrary to law.
The ECPA is simply good government that provides a transparent framework. Without the ECPA, CDPHE has indicated that it will draft a plan and implement it behind closed doors, without public or legislative oversight. Without the ECPA, you will be ceding your authority, your responsibility, to unelected air quality regulators.
Filed under: New Energy Economy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
IB-C-2015 (April 2015)
Author: Lexi Osborn
As part of the Obama administration’s agenda to address global warming, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced new regulations with the purpose of reducing carbon emissions. Titled the “Clean Power Plan,” the controversial rules:
- Will require a new regulatory regime, and holistically seeks to remake the nation’s energy policy;
- Will incur massive costs;
- Will greatly affect energy reliability across the country;
- Is likely illegal; and
- Won’t have any measurable impact on global CO2 emissions.
Filed under: Legal, Legislation, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Energy Policy Center analyst Michael Sandoval offers testimony on behalf of Senate Bill 44 before the House Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs on March 2, 2015.
Testimony as prepared:
Testimony on behalf of
SB 44 CONCERNING A REDUCTION IN COLORADO’S RENEWABLE ENERGY STANDARD
March 2, 2015
State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee
Mr(s). Chair and Members of the Committee,
My name is Michael Sandoval. I am an Energy Policy Analyst for the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify today on behalf of SB 44.
At the Independence Institute, we are agnostic on energy resources. It is our strong belief that the choice of energy resources should come from the demands of the free market, and not from the preferences of policymakers, lobbyists, or special interest groups.
The goal of the Energy Policy Center is to promote a free market in energy production, where no protections, subsidies, or regulations result in energy winners and losers. We advocate that government remain neutral, which then encourages a level playing field. That is the best way to ensure that consumers reap the benefits of a healthy energy market – where competition, lower prices, and more options provide the foundation for affordable and most importantly, reliable energy.
SB 44 affords utilities the flexibility they need to meet electricity demand in the most cost effective way. SB 44 is an energy freedom bill that does not preclude utilities from incorporating wind, solar, or other alternative energy sources in order to achieve a minimum percentage of electricity that electric service providers must generate. Rather it allows utilities to achieve that mix in a way that does not force them to rush to comply in coming years.
SB 44 would eliminate the step-increases mandated by previous legislation that would negatively affect utilities’ ability to respond to customer demands and force ratepayers to contend with ever increasing costs of energy in Colorado.
The most recent numbers from the Energy Information Administration indicate where Colorado sits vis-à-vis its neighbors when it comes to the average retail price of electricity to the residential sector. As of November 2014, Colorado ranks 27th, with a residential retail cost that exceeds that of New Mexico, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Idaho.
According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, in 2013 Colorado renewable portfolio standard of 30 percent by 2020 is the highest in the entire Rocky Mountain region, trailing only the west coast state of California.
The Independence Institute believes SB 44 addresses concerns about the state’s market-skewing renewable portfolio standard’s impact upon utilities and ratepayers. The step-change increases in the state’s renewable energy mandate over the course of the next few years will result in higher costs for utilities and ratepayers alike.
These increased costs will likely result in job losses, higher costs for consumers, and a loss of competitiveness for Colorado businesses in comparison to neighboring states without or with lower renewable energy standards. SB 44’S 15 percent figure would bring the state more in line with states throughout the Mountain region.
Again, aligning minimums between investor-owned utilities and cooperative electric associations will level the playing field that will keep electricity rates competitive, but will not prevent individual providers from exceeding those minimums with a market mix of conventional and alternative sources, including wind and solar, that best fits their own market profile and satisfies the needs of their customers.
In conclusion, SB 44 gives utilities the flexibility to adjust power sources as needed and respond to needs of consumers—and not the demands of special interests—from 2015 and thereafter.
As I stated at the beginning it is the strong belief of the Independence Institute that the choice of energy resources should come from the demands of the free market, and not from the preferences of policymakers, lobbyists, or special interest groups and we believe that SB 44 is consistent with that principle.
By Henry Zhang
On June 17th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly consumer price index report. This included statistics regarding consumer prices in May 2014 and year-to-year inflation. Of note is that in the Western Region, from May 2013 to May 2014, electricity prices rose 2.8 percent and total energy prices rose by 3.1 percent. Compare those figures to 2.3 percent increase in average consumer prices over the same time period. In fact, according to the Denver Business Journal, the year-to-year price gain in energy was tied with medical care for the largest price gain of any major category used to calculate inflation.
(Here is a screenshot of the relevant BLS Western Region data. Energy prices are boxed in red)
Also from the Denver Business Journal article:
“The monthly increase [in the West] was largely influenced by higher prices for electricity,” BLS said. “Overall, energy costs advanced 4.6 percent over the month.”
Ten of the 13 states that comprise the BLS’ Western Region have some sort of renewable portfolio mandate over the next 15 years. This means that the state must generate a certain proportion of its electricity from renewable sources. For states like Colorado that have been endowed with plentiful coal reserves, this requires replacing electricity from coal, which is relatively inexpensive, with electricity from wind and solar, which is relatively expensive. This, in turn, leads to higher electricity prices, which hurt businesses and consumers alike and can “inflict significant harm on the state economy.” 
On a national level, where 37 out of the 50 states have enacted renewable portfolio standards or goals, consumer prices rose 2.1 percent from May 2013 to May 2014 while electricity prices rose 3.6 percent and total energy prices rose 3.3 percent. For the US, like for the Western Region, energy prices experienced the largest percentage increase of all of the major consumption categories used to calculate inflation.
From 2004, when Colorado’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was passed, to 2012, the latest year for which data is available, the average retail price of electricity for all sectors increased from 6.95 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 9.39 cents per kWh, a 35 percent increase. This is equivalent to a 3.76 percent average annual increase. For residential consumers of electricity, the retail price rose from 8.42 cents per kWh in 2004 to 11.46 cents per kWh in 2012. This is a 36 percent increase, equivalent to an average annual increase of 3.85 percent. In the eight years after the RPS was passed, both figures for the annual growth rate in the price of electricity are greater than the average rate of inflation.
For comparison purposes, in the eight years leading up to 2004 (1996-2004), average retail electricity prices only rose 15 percent, from 6.05 cents per kWh to 6.95 cents per kWh. This is an annualized growth rate of 1.73 percent. What more, for residential consumers, the annualized growth rate from 1996 to 2004 was just 1.46 percent. Thus, in the eight years before the RPS was passed, both figures for the annual growth rate in the price of electricity are less than the average rate of inflation. For a typical Colorado household, which spends around $1065 per year on electricity, the difference between an annual 3.85 percent rate increase and an annual 1.46 percent rate increase is an extra $270, per household, spent just on electricity over the course of 10 years. Furthermore, this number is much lower than the true cost of the RPS to Colorado households. It doesn’t take into account the billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone to the energy sources, like wind and solar, which contribute to the rapid rise in electricity prices.
Affordable energy and electricity prices are the bedrock of a strong, healthy economy. Increases in the price of electricity that outpace inflation and real income growth squeeze the spending power of all consumers. Ordinary people like you and me need affordable, dependable electricity for a myriad of purposes that enhance our standard of living. Businesses need a steady electricity supply to produce the goods and services that we consume. A justification of the cost of rapidly increasing electricity prices would require more than the rhetoric of environmental benefits. It would require clear evidence, from detailed, rigorous analyses, that the added value of environmental benefits exceeds the lost jobs and economic malaise caused by higher electricity prices.
Henry Zhang is a Future Leaders summer intern. He is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, majoring in mathematics and economics.
 The Western region consists of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming (link)
 775 kWh/month * 12 months/year * 11.46 cents/kWh * (1.0385/1.0146)10 = $1325, which is $270 greater than $1065
Filed under: New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
By Amy Oliver Cooke
“Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun,” wrote environmental doomsday prophet Dr. Paul Ehrlich in 1975.
That’s a cruel statement directed at people who simply want electric lights so their children can read at night, a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling, or a heater to keep their homes warm during the winter.
Yet it seems to be the approach of Colorado’s environmental Left. Part of the problem is progressive leaders’ extremely narrow definition of “clean” energy that limits resource choices to more costly and unreliable wind and solar.
In 2004, Colorado voters approved Amendment 37, requiring Xcel Energy and other investor-owned utilities to use preferred sources such as wind and solar for 10 percent of the electricity sold to end users.
Since then the Colorado legislature has mandated increases in the renewable (or preferred) energy standard, from 10 to 20 to the current 30 percent by 2020. Only Maine (40 percent by 2017) and California (33 percent by 2020) have more aggressive mandates. They also have higher electric rates than Colorado.
Last year the state legislature passed SB 252, a 20 percent preferred energy standard on Colorado’s rural electric cooperatives. Now nearly the entire state must pay for a significant percentage of electricity produced predominantly from preferred “clean” sources wind and solar.
Since producing electricity from wind and solar is more expensive, Colorado’s electric rates have gone up along with the legislature’s mandates.
Not too long ago, our state enjoyed some of the cheapest electricity in the United States. In 2000, Colorado’s residential rates were 7.31 per kWh, equivalent to 9.89 cents in 2013 dollars. Instead, Coloradans now pay 11.91 cents per kWh for residential electricity, the highest rate in the Mountain West. California, Alaska, and Hawaii are the only Western states with higher residential rates.
Colorado’s electric rates are rising significantly faster than in most states. Last year rates across the U.S. increased on average 2.4 percent, compared to a 4.5 percent jump here.
These high rates couldn’t come at a worse time. Just this week the Denver Post reported that Colorado’s labor participation rate has fallen 6 percentage points since 2006, to its lowest level (67.3 percent) since 1976.
In addition, the number of Coloradans obtaining assistance from food stamps continues to mark all-time high numbers, Complete Colorado reports.
The second week of February saw a 42 percent increase in Coloradans asking government for help paying their heating bills, according to 9News.
The state legislature had an opportunity to modestly improve the situation. Rep. Lori Saine’s (R-Weld County) HB 1138 would have expanded the definition of “clean” energy to include hydroelectricity.
Under HB1138 many electric co-ops that serve Colorado’s rural communities could have met or at least come close to meeting SB 252’s increased mandate. Without the expanded definition, some co-ops will need to build additional capacity and expensive transmission lines, or purchase renewable energy credits from other providers. Some of Colorado’s poorest counties will bear the costs.
Despite HB1138’s bipartisan sponsorship, lobbying from the wind and solar industries and their advocates in the environmental non-profit world doomed the bill in committee.
Progressive state lawmakers’ definition of clean energy is also unique. Many states, including those in the eco-friendly Pacific Northwest, the Center for American Progress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and our own Colorado Energy Office all consider hydro to be a clean, renewable source.
Our state’s extremely narrow definition of clean energy begs the question of whether progressive lawmakers simply seek to protect the wind and solar industry at the expense of ratepayers.
A 2012 Independence Institute study showed Xcel Energy ratepayers spent $343 million to comply with the preferred energy mandate, much of which ended up as surplus because supply exceeded demand. That’s $245 per ratepayer, nearly two months of average Colorado electricity bills, for electricity they didn’t use.
Affordable power is not mutually exclusive of clean power. Colorado should expand the definition of clean resources to include clean coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, and nuclear. We also should encourage a least cost principle and let consumers decide.
Anything else is just cruel.
This opinion editorial appeared originally in the Greeley Tribune on February 20, 2014.
Filed under: New Energy Economy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
In 1999 Colorado enjoyed some of the lowest electricity rates in the United States and the Mountain West. In 2004, Colorado voters approved Amendment 37, requiring investor owned utilities to provide 10 percent of the electricity sold to end users to come from the preferred sources wind and solar.
Since 2004, the Colorado state legislature has mandated increases in the renewable portfolio standard, more appropriately titled the preferred energy standard, from 10 to 20 to the current 30 percent by 2020. Only Maine (40 percent by 2017) and California (33 percent by 2020) have more aggressive mandates, and they also have higher electric rates than Colorado.
Last year the state legislature passed a 20 percent preferred portfolio standard on Colorado’s rural electric cooperatives.
As the mandate to produce more electricity from wind and solar has increased so have Colorado’s electricity rates.
- In 1999 Colorado’s electric rates were 5.9 cents per Kilowatt hour (kWh) and were the 18th least expensive in the country.
- In the 1990s Colorado’s population increased by 30 percent, electricity demand grew 26 percent, yet real prices fell 25 percent in the same period.
- If electric rates simply kept pace with inflation, Coloradans would have paid 8.4 cents per kWh in 2013 instead of 9.83 cents per kWh.
- In 2000, Colorado’s residential rates were 7.31 per kWh; adjusting for inflation that’s the equivalent of 9.89 cents in 2013. Instead Coloradans now pay 11.91 cents per kWh for residential electricity.
- Colorado’s current electric rate for all sectors is 9.83 cents per kWh, nearly 7 percent higher than the Mountain West average of 9.21 cents per kWh.
- Colorado’s electric rates increased 4.5 percent last year while U.S. electric rates increased only 2.4 percent last year.
- At 11.91 cents per kWh, Colorado has the highest residential rates in the Mountain West.
- Colorado residential electric rates are the 20th highest in the nation, with California, Alaska, and Hawaii being the only western states with higher residential rates.
Most information available at the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Table of “Average Retail Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customer by End-Use Sector.”
Progressive left logic: Progressives want to destroy ALEC. Moderate Republican PUC nominee Glenn Vaad has been a member of ALEC. Therefore progressives want to destroy Glenn Vaad even though he has supported increasing Colorado’s renewable energy mandate and fuel switching.
The progressive left’s criticism of Governor John Hickenlooper’s appointment of former State Representative Glenn Vaad (R-Mead) to Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) appears to part of a coordinated national campaign against the American Legislative Exchange Council rather than Vaad’s record on energy policy, which is more in line with Democrats than free market conservatives. Vaad is awaiting State Senate confirmation, which is likely to happen sometime this week.
ALEC is a nonpartisan voluntary membership organization for conservative state lawmakers “who share a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.” ALEC promotes such dangerous ideas like reducing excessive government spending, limiting the overall tax burden, choice in education, and market-based approach to renewable energy sources. As a state lawmaker, Glenn Vaad was a member.
The progressive left is obsessed with ALEC. In May 2013 several progressive organizations with ties to Colorado met to “coordinate their attack plan” as the Washington Free Beacon reported:
Leading progressive organizers met on May 10 to coordinate their attack plan against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), discussing ways to pressure corporations into abandoning the group for its small-government advocacy and turn against what they call the “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”
The participants, including representatives from such far-left groups as Common Cause, Color of Change, and ProgressNow, met for lunch in a conference room at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Free Beacon quoted Aniello Alioto of ProgressNow Colorado, summing up the strategy on attacking ALEC, “Never relent, never let up pressure, and always increase.”
By law, the three-member PUC cannot have more than two members from any one party. With Republican member James Tarpey retiring and the other two members Pam Patton and Chairman Joshua Epel being Democrats, that means the Governor had to find a qualified applicant within the Republican Party. In theory, he could have looked for someone inside the Constitution, Libertarian, or Green Parties, but it’s likely that the qualified applicant pool was rather shallow.
So Governor Hickenlooper selected a very moderate Republican Rep. Vaad, who has the necessary qualifications as a former Weld County Commissioner and longtime employee of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Vaad’s 2011 Colorado Union of Taxpayers’ rating (a conservative legislative scorecard) was a modest 50 out of 100. Only nine House Republicans scored lower.
When it comes to energy policy, the environmental left should be pleased with Vaad’s nomination. As a state representative, Vaad co-sponsored HB07-1281, the bill to increase Colorado’s renewable mandate to 20 percent. He also sponsored then Governor Bill Ritter’s crowning jewel of his “new energy economy,” the controversial fuel-switching bill HB10-1365, which got nearly unanimous approval from the Democrat caucus but proved quite divisive for Republicans.
But Vaad’s actual legislative record doesn’t seem to matter. To the progressive left, his appointment is more about ALEC than Colorado’s PUC as the far-left Colorado Independent reports:
Groups opposed to Vaad’s appointment say he has not just been an ALEC member but an officer. They point to documents and reports posted by consumer-advocacy groups like Common Cause and progressive-politics organizations like the Center for Media and Democracy that show Vaad was Chair of the ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development task force while he was serving in the state legislature in 2011 and 2012 and that he had been accepting ALEC “scholarships” every year he was in the legislature dating back to 2006.
According to a press release from Gabe Elsner, executive director at the Energy and Policy Institute, quoted in the Independent:
There is a clear conflict of interest…In the past year, ALEC’s utility and fossil fuel members lobbied lawmakers in at least 15 states to introduce legislation repealing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Now ALEC is launching a new wave of attacks on clean energy policies like solar net metering… There’s a real threat that Mr. Vaad will serve ALEC’s special interest members instead of Colorado families.
Well first, Rep. Vaad hasn’t been in the state legislature since the spring of 2012, and Mr. Elsner is talking about 2013. Also, there is no evidence that Vaad ever introduced legislation to repeal the renewable energy mandate. In fact, as stated earlier, he did just the opposite. (Although he did oppose HB10-1001, the 30 percent renewable mandate bill). Furthermore, he was on the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development task force not the Energy, Environment and Agriculture.
Progressive left logic: Progressives want to destroy ALEC. Moderate Republican PUC nominee Glenn Vaad has been a member of ALEC. Therefore progressives want to destroy Glenn Vaad even though he has supported increasing Colorado’s renewable energy mandate and fuel switching.
The bottom line is that the opposition to Glenn Vaad is about attacking ALEC rather than Vaad’s qualifications or his perspective on energy policy. So the progressive left is willing to sacrifice about the best appointee they can hope for in order to “never let up the pressure, and always increase.”
I did call Glenn Vaad for comment but as of posting he has not returned the call.
Filed under: Archive, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legislation, New Energy Economy, renewable energy
DENVER–After a slight delay due to the government shutdown in early October, the Environmental Protection Agency began its 11-city “listening tour” seeking input on carbon pollution regulations last week, with an all-day session schedule for Denver on Wednesday.
“The agency is expected to solicit ideas on how best to regulate carbon emissions from the more than 1,000 power plants now in operation – the cornerstone and arguably the most controversial part of the Obama administration’s strategy to address climate change.
The EPA will use a rarely employed section of the federal Clean Air Act, known as section 111(d), and will rely heavily on input from states to craft a flexible rule that can be applied to states with different energy profiles,” Reuters reported.
Session attendees wishing to offer comments will be afforded three minutes to speak at the regional listening sessions, and will include speakers from think tanks, government agencies, state officials, and business groups supporting and opposing the EPA’s planned regulation.
A variety of carbon-cutting schemes–some already in place in a number of different states–will be defended against questions of affordability and reliability of electricity offered in its place, according to reports.
Critics have blasted the EPA for skipping states that power their electricity needs with coal, The Hill reported earlier this month.
House Republicans criticized the EPA decision to hold the meetings at the EPA regional offices, claiming that the EPA was “conspicuously” avoiding coal-heavy states.
“Despite being the most impacted, all of these states are missing from EPA’s tour schedule. That means Americans that may be the hardest hit by EPA’s regulations will need to travel hundreds of miles to ensure their concerns about electricity prices and the impacts on their jobs are heard,” the Republicans wrote.
The EPA will be holding sessions in Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia–each in a state in the top 10 of coal production in 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Colorado houses the Region 8 EPA office and ranked 11th in the 2011 figures. Wyoming, which will not host an EPA listening tour stop, ranked first, with approximately 40 percent of the nation’s coal output that same year.
There will be no EPA listening sessions in West Virginia or Kentucky, the second and third-ranked states. Those three states combined to produce 62.2 percent of U.S. coal production in 2011.
Groups opposed to the EPA’s plans will be hosting a rally dubbed “Enough Already” on the west steps of the state Capitol at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Groups include the Independence Institute, Colorado Mining Association, and a variety of other organizations. A complete list of speakers is available via the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Anyone interested in attending one of the remaining sessions can sign up here.
IB-F-2013 (Sept. 2013)
Author: Brandon Ratterman
Relative to other states in the Rocky Mountain region, Colorado is underutilizing its federal land for energy development, specifically for oil and gas development. On average, the states in the Mountain West region produce 40 percent of their oil, and 50 percent of their natural gas on federal land. Meanwhile, Colorado produces 10 percent of its oil, and 20 percent of its natural gas on federal land.