By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
Denver - Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper delivered the keynote address to the Climate Leadership Conference in Denver today, highlighting the state’s efforts to accelerate the transition to renewable energy by working with companies and municipalities throughout the state.
I had an opportunity to ask Governor Hickenlooper about the opportunities and challenges facing electric cooperatives in Colorado as they pursue local renewable energy projects - including policies that restrict 18 of the 22 co-ops in Colorado that buy power from Tri-State. Here's what Governor Hickenlooper's said:
We have the same limitations that those cooperatives do, we don’t control Tri-State. But again, I think this is where public sentiment plays a big role, and as more people speak out on this, I think there will be more pressure on Tri-State to at least accommodate those co-ops that feel they can have cleaner energy at a lower cost and not compromise what everybody else is paying for their electricity as well.
And I don’t think we’re far away from that. I think that as renewables continue to come down in value, and producing coal is not coming down in value, if anything it’s probably going up. And that dynamic tension is going to push an increasing number of co-ops towards renewables, and I think at a certain point Tri-State is going to either be part of the team or they’re going to really face some withering criticism from the public.
Indeed, a growing number of electric cooperatives are pursuing renewable energy projects, especially solar energy projects. A report from Rocky Mountain Institute this week shows that cost reductions and other factors have led to a rapid increase of community-scale solar projects by electric cooperatives in 2017, compared to previous years.
Several electric cooperatives in Colorado built solar power projects in 2017, including United Power and Poudre Valley Electric, and others are pursuing solar projects that are expected to come on line in 2018. But a growing number of Colorado co-ops are restricted from pursuing more community-scale solar, because they have already reached (or are approaching) the 5% limit on self-generation imposed by Tri-State.
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