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Colorado Senate committee defeats renewable energy bill

With a vote of 4-3, the Senate Business Affairs Committee voted down a proposal to increase renewable energy use in Colorado. H.B. 1295 would have required Investor Owned Utilities to acquire about 8 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2010.

“It’s a shame the committee killed this bill. Surrounding states have passed renewable energy standards, in effect helping their rural communities stay alive and adding to the incomes of farmers and ranchers,” said John Stencil, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

Opposition to the bill came from the Rural Electric Association, a coalition of 23 utilities that were exempted from the renewable energy standard.

Local governments in Colorado looked to this proposal as a way to stimulate economic development. It’s estimated that a renewable energy standard of this size could create nearly $100 million in rural economic development.

“Our community can’t afford to let opportunities like this slip by,” said Prowers County Commissioner John Stulp. “We’ll keep on working until we get this done right.” Stulp was at the capitol yesterday to testify in favor of H.B. 1295. A similar standard in Texas, signed into law by then Gov. George W. Bush, has already resulted in projects that are projected to pay more than $225 million over their lifetime to support various county services, hospitals, fire departments, and school districts.

The defeat of the proposal is also a loss for local businesses.

“Just say the word and Colorado’s business community is ready to dive into the renewable energy market. Today’s decision is an unfortunate setback,” said Craig Cox. Cox directs the Colorado Coalition for New Energy Technologies, which represents 90 businesses across the state.