New Legislative Rules Curb Greenhouse Gas

Colorado’s electric cooperatives will be reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from their power supplies to meet new requirements stemming from Colorado’s 2019 legislative session. HB 19-1261 established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions statewide from 2005 baseline levels by 26% by 2025, by 50% by 2030 and by 90% by 2050.

Those are the goals. How they will be accomplished will come from the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, which has been given the authority to oversee the process. Electric utilities with power plants and retail sales may submit a clean energy plan to the AQCC and the Public Utilities Commission designed to achieve 80% reductions in greenhouse emission by 2030. This provision allows for Xcel Energy’s already submitted clean energy plan. It could also be used by Black Hills Energy, an investor-owned utility, and electric co-ops Holy Cross Energy and Intermountain Rural Electric Association, both of which own part of a coal-fueled power plant.

The provision for submitting a clean energy plan instead of having the AQCC determine how the reduction in greenhouse gases will be accomplished is not available to co-op power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission or the state’s other electric distribution cooperatives. They will have to
wait for the AQCC to write the rules.

Electric utilities are expected to have higher percentages of required greenhouse gas reduction than other industries, according to Geoff Hier, director of governmental relations. Utilities are easier to regulate and power plant emissions are easier to measure, he noted.

Other News Bills

HB 19-1314 on transitioning from a coalbased economy creates the Just Transition Office (JTO) in the state government. Electric utilities proposing to retire a coal-fueled electric generating facility must submit a workforce transition plan to the JTO at least 90 days prior to the retirement. The plan must identify the number of employees being offered other employment within the company, expected retirements and employees being laid off.

The JTO coordinates grants to affected communities to diversify the local economy. The bill creates job training programs and a fund to assist displaced workers for up to three years.

SB 19-236 followed the required “sunset” review process for the Public Utilities Commission and approved the continuation of the PUC’s authority to regulate public utilities with some changes, two of which affect electric co-ops directly.

First, Tri-State G&T is now required to submit electric resource plans to the PUC for approval. The second item requires the PUC to investigate the costs and benefits of all Colorado electric utilities participating in either an energy imbalance market, a regional transmission organization or joint
tariffs. If the PUC finds joining one of these options is in the public interest, it must, by July 1, 2022, direct utilities to participate in the best option.

In other legislative action, bills regarding the oil and gas industry, taxes, employment law and other areas of business were passed before this year’s legislative session ended. These will also affect your local electric co-op.