2019 Legislative Session in Review

2019 Legislative Session in Review

The Colorado Legislative session adjourned on Friday evening, but not without passing several bills of great consequence to the state’s electric power sector. For solar and storage companies, the two biggest bills were HB19-1003, the Community Solar Modernization Act, and SB19-236, Sunset Public Utilities Commission. Both are expected to be signed in the near future and become law. There were several others that will indirectly impact the industry too.

The Community Solar Modernization Act is an important update to ensure the program continues to deliver low-cost energy for subscribers.

The key elements of the bill include:

  • Removing the adjacent county clause requirement and allowing gardens to be built anywhere within a utility’s service territory.
  • Increasing the maximum size of a garden to five megawatts, and allow the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to move that to 10 megawatts after July 1, 2023.
  • Instructing the PUC to initiate a proceeding by January 30, 2020 to determine whether the utility shall purchase all of the electricity and renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the community solar garden or whether a subscriber may choose to retain or sell the RECs
  • Starting on January 1, 2020, ALL PV work of at least 300kw, including the interconnection of modules, grounding of modules and balancing of systems, plus the interconnection must be performed by a licensed master electrician, journeyman or residential wireman. This work can also be done at a 3:1 ratio of licensed electrician to apprentices.  

COSSA offers a big thank you to Representatives Chris Hansen and Alex Valdez and Senators Mike Foote and Tami Story for their work in getting this bill through the legislature.

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The Sunset Public Utilities Commission bill does exactly the opposite. Rather than sunsetting the PUC, which was never really on the table, it reauthorizes the PUC for another 7 years.

In addition to keeping the existing functions, this bill, nearly dubbed the “TURDUCKEN Act of 2019 (With a Slice of PUC-in Pie)”, increases the role and power of the PUC to transform Colorado’s electric power sector.

The bill:

  • Establishes an explicit right for all Coloradans to generate, consume, store and export energy from behind-the-meter resources.
  • Codifies Xcel’s 80% CO2 reduction by 2030 commitment, and establishes a process for consideration of implementing a “clean energy plan” at the PUC using the existing ERP process.
  • Removes an existing provision that allowed utilities to own and rate base up to 50% of renewable resources and opens up all new generation procurements to competitive bidding.
  • Allows for use of “securitization” as a tool to reduce the costs of undepreciated capital balances in retiring generating units.

It requires the PUC to:

  • Adopt rules governing resource planning by Tri-State. The impact here for solar and storage deployment could be massive.
  • Conduct an investigative study into performance-based regulation. This is a key step in the transformation of the utility business model.
  • Use the social cost of carbon in PUC decision making, including resource planning, electricity DSM planning, and beneficial electrification applications.
  • Open an investigative proceeding to review of RTOs, EIMs, joint tariff agreements and other wholesale market elements for the entire state, including cooperative and municipal utilities.
  • Adopt distribution system planning rules for investor-owned utilities. This should help speed up interconnection.
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It does not include:

  • Xcel’s “Community” bill from 2018 that would have allowed Xcel sole ability to meet a community’s renewable electricity needs. COSSA was a key voice in ensuring it was not included this year.
  • Anything about including the social cost of carbon in natural gas DSM planning, which hurts solar thermal deployments and building electrification efforts. This is one area where COSSA is disappointed.

While not directly related to the electric power sector, there are several honorable mentions that should have significant positive impact on the demand for solar and storage technologies.

HONORABLE MENTION

HB19-1261 – Establishes statewide goals to reduce 2025 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26%, 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%, and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% of the levels of greenhouse gas emissions that existed in 2005.

HB19-1260 – Requires local jurisdictions to adopt one of the 3 most recent versions of the international energy conservation code at a minimum, upon updating any other building code.

SB19-077 – Directs utilities to submit transportation electrification plans to the PUC for review and removes an existing prohibition against utility investment in EV chargers.

That’s a lot to digest and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing during our monthly policy committee calls. If you are interested in joining them, please send an email to gcrafts@cossa.co to get on the distribution list.

Believe it or not, COSSA is already thinking about the 2020 session. In June and July, I will be leading member meetings to discuss and prioritize our legislative needs.

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If you wish to be involved, please make sure your contact information is up-to-date so that when the dates, locations and times are available, you’ll be notified.

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