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Agitating for energy

Group taps wind, solar



I f you've been downtown in the last few months, you've no doubt been subject to the benign harassment of Environment Colorado canvassers.

The Denver-based organization is agitating for the state to adopt a renewable energy standard. House Bill 1295 would have required all investor-owned utility companies to garner 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010. However, after passing the House of Representatives by a wide margin it was voted down 4-3 in the Senate's business affairs committee last March.

According to National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado has the 11th-best wind potential and the fifth-best solar potential in the country. Currently, it uses only 1 percent.

"Colorado has the potential to meet its current (energy) needs five times over through renewable sources," said Environment Colorado's Matt Garrington. "I think asking for 10 percent is pretty reasonable."

By way of comparison, California has passed a resolution to have 20 percent of its energy be renewable by 2017. Even more ambitious is Nevada, which will require that 15 percent of its energy be renewable by 2013, 5 percent of it being solar.

One of the main reasons Environment Colorado is targeting Colorado Springs is in hopes of reversing Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) opposition to a renewable energy standard. Despite being exempt from the standards, CSU lobbied against HB 1295. The group's canvassers have been in Colorado Springs leafleting and urging passersby to support renewable energy standards.

However, CSU's government liaison Seth Voyles said that statewide standards would erode local control. "We'd rather have voluntary incentives," he said.

According to Voyles, renewable energy typically increases costs by $3.00 for every 100-kilowatt hour. (The average home uses 500-kilowatt hours per month.) A renewable mandate in Colorado, Voyles said, would require the construction of wind turbines in mountain areas. "If we were going to put a wind turbine on Pikes Peak, people would be pretty upset," said Voyles.

Rick Gilliam of the Western Resource Advocates said his group, in conjunction with Environment Colorado, hopes to have the bill reintroduced in the next legislative session.

--John Dicker

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