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Renewable energy amendment’s effects on area utilities

Amendment 37 is a proposed renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and, according to the state of Colorado’s Web site, Colorado was the first in the nation to put the RPS before a vote as opposed to using the Legislature.The initiative requires Colorado utilities with 40,000 or more customers must generate or purchase a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. “It comes into effect the first of 2007 for utilities with 40,000 members and above,” said Darryl Edwards, member services manager for Mountain View Electric Association. “Mountain View Electric is currently below that number, but we expect to be at 40,000 members the first part of 2007.”Three percent of the generated electricity must come from renewable resources by 2007; from 2011 through 2014, the number increases to 6 percent; and by 10 percent in 2015.The amendment dictates that, of the electricity generated each year from renewable sources, at least 4 percent must come from solar technologies and at least one-half of the 4 percent must come from solar systems located onsite at customers’ facilities.Other alternative technologies include wind, geothermal heat, biomass facilities that burn nontoxic plants, landfill gas, animal waste, small hydroelectric and hydrogen fuel cells.The amendment includes provisions for exemption and inclusion procedures. Utilities may hold elections to exempt themselves from the renewable energy requirement. “It’s up to the individual cooperative or utility whether they are going to meet the requirements or not,” Edwards said. He said it’s too early to say whether Mountain View will opt out of the amendment or not. It depends on the membership. More than likely, Mountain View will take it to a vote, Edwards said. “I believe you have to have over 25 percent of your members actually vote and, of course, the majority would rule,” he said.Roger Kort, manager of external affairs for Aquila, said they are planning to go ahead with the amendment. “We don’t have any intentions of opting out,” he said. “We are going to proceed with the program.”One utility company that will not be affected is Intermountain-REA (IREA). “Luckily, Amendment 37 will not affect IREA because (like United Power) our members voted by a four-to-one margin to ‘opt out’ of the provisions of Amendment 37,” said Richard Stith, director of IREA’s member relations and services. “Cost and reliability were our primary concerns.”To cover the costs of bringing in renewable resources, utilities could raise rates.Amendment 37 allowed for a per-bill cap, however, new legislation passed in 2005 increased that cap to help cover costs and ease concerns. “What the amendment allowed, when we voted for it in 2004, was a 50-cent per-bill cap to residential meters,” Edwards said. “Senate Bill 143 … increased that to 1 percent of the total bill for everyone.”Kort said, when the amendment does take effect, the cost to Aquila customers should be little or “transparent.”Since 1998, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. has given consumers who want to participate in a renewable energy program an option. “Tri-State already had a [green power] plan in place in 1998,” Edwards said. “We began selling our green power program around 2000.”Customers can buy green power at an additional, minimal monthly fee, and support the continued development of renewable energy resources. “Green power is … for people who want to contribute to renewable energy, an outlet to buy through Mountain View and Tri-State,” Edwards said. “Our members pay a premium for that.”MVEA currently has 275 members in its green power program, most purchase about 700 blocks per month. Edwards said that Schriever Air Force Base is their biggest green power consumer, purchasing about 1,500 blocks per month, or 18,000 blocks per year. “That’s around 2.6 billion kwh annually that we are selling right now at Mountain View,” said Edwards.Stith said members of IREA don’t have to go through the extra step of enrolling in a green program because their customers are already using renewable energy. “About 7-to-10 percent of our power is hydroelectric from the Western Area Power Administration,” he said. “All our consumers benefit from this low-cost renewable source.”Aquila does not have an official green program for its customers, but currently uses renewable energy. “We have a 110-megawatt wind farm in Dodge City, Kan., that we use to help supply some of our energy to our customers,” Kort said.MVEA/Tri-State consumers who participate in the program must commit to purchasing at least one 100-kilowatt-hour block of electricity per month from renewable resources. Customers have the option to purchase more green power, if they desire, including up to a total month’s consumption. “It’s about $2.50 (per month) per 100-kilowatt-hour block,” Edwards said.Stith said using renewable energy actually saves its customers money. “The hydropower is actually less expensive than the bulk of our power purchased from Xcel Energy, so it actually saves money for our members,” he said.The Public Utilities Commission has until April 1 to solidify all the requirements for Amendment 37.AquilaHistory: began as The Green Light and Power Company, which was formed in 1917.Headquarters: Kansas City, MoService: Operates electricity and natural gas distribution utilities serving customers in seven U.S. states. Aquila also owns and operates power generation assets. Aquila currently serves about 90,000 customers with electricity and 60,000 customers with natural gas in the state of Colorado.Power supplier: Aquila generates one-third of its own power; the balance comes from Xcel Energy.Intermountain-REAHistory: On May 11, 1935, in recognition of the need for power in rural areas, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration, an agency that would be the primary source of low interest loans that would help bring power to rural America. On Aug. 24, 1938, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association filed its Certificate of Incorporation with the Secretary of State of Colorado.Headquarters: Sedalia, Co; district offices in Strasburg, Conifer and Woodland Park, Co.Service: 5,000 square miles; includes all or parts of ten counties to the east, west and south of the metro Denver area and west of Colorado Springs; About 129,000 customers.Power supplier: Seven to 10 percent is hydroelectricity from Western Area Power Administration; the balance comes from Xcel Energy.Mountain View ElectricHistory: On Dec. 6, 1940, approximately 150 people gathered in the Black Forest Community Center to discuss the possibility of organizing a nonprofit rural electric association to get electricity to their homes and ranches.Headquarters: Limon, COService: 5,500 square miles, 54,95 miles of energized line and over 38,000 meters.Power supplier: Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. with headquarters in Denver, is a nonprofit, wholesale power supply cooperative that provides electricity to 44 member distribution systems serving major parts of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.Sources:, Roger Kort, manager of external affairs for Aquila (Co),>, Richard Stith, director of Intermountain-IREA’s member relations and services and and Darryl Edwards, member services manager for Mountain View Electric Association

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