Big Solar, Big Benefits

Environment Colorado

Denver, CO – Solar power plants are one step closer to becoming a reality as part of Colorado’s new energy future. By a vote of 43 to 21, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1164, sponsored by Rep. Judy Solano (D-Brighton), the second key bill in a “go solar” legislative package moving through the general assembly this session. 

“Colorado’s ready to bring solar power plants into prime time,” said. Rep. Solano. “Colorado can ‘Go Solar’ with utility-scale solar power plants. Just one large-scale plant could generate more than $2 billion in private investment and over 250 high skilled, high paying jobs.”

HB 1164 would create a framework that paves the way for new energy technologies such as solar power plants and instructs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to consider the benefits of cutting global warming pollution today to avoid the high cost such pollution will carry in the future.

“Today’s vote is the first time the state legislature has taken action to reduce Colorado’s global warming pollution,” said Pam Kiely, Legislative Director for Environment Colorado. “This measure not only addresses a critical issue in our state, but does so without raising utility rates for Colorado consumers.”

As the need to cut global warming pollution becomes more and more apparent to stave off potential environmental and economic impacts, the world’s leading financial institutions are also responding. Recently, Bank of America, the countries second largest bank, announced it would consider global warming pollution a liability when it looks to finance electric utility projects.

Colorado is a veritable bread basket of solar power and has the nation’s fifth largest solar power potential. Experts have identified southern Colorado, especially parts of the San Luis Valley as having some of the best solar resources for utility scale solar power plants. According to a recent report by the Governors Energy Office, Colorado could meet half of its current electricity demand if the state developed just 2 percent of our best solar resources.

“Solar power is a gold mine for the state of Colorado,” Harriet Moyer-Aptekar of Ausra stated after today’s hearing.  “We need to take advantage of our 300 days of sunshine, putting our clean, renewable resources to work, and making solar power a significant piece of our energy portfolio.”  Ausra is a leader in utility-scale solar power technology and is looking at Colorado as a new place for growth and development.

Clean energy businesses can build solar power plants in Colorado within three to four years, if utilities and communities make a commitment to purchase the solar-generated electricity. Over 350 megawatts of electricity from solar power plants have been online for close to 20 years, enough to provide electricity for nearly 100,000 homes.

Solar power plants can deliver competitively priced power (11 to 16 cents per kilowatt hour), especially when Colorado’s demand for power is highest – during hot and sunny summer months. Solar power plants can actually come in cheaper during peak demand than the cost of pushing dirty coal plants to the limit or firing up natural gas power plants.

About House Bill 1164 New Solar Energy Technologies

·     Directs the Public Utilities Commission to consider whether the acquisition of utility-scale solar resources (2 MW or greater) is in the public interest, taking into account benefits associated with utility scale solar resources

·     Requires the PUC to give full consideration to impacts of future carbon regulation on electricity pricing when evaluating utility resource plans

House Bill 1164 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.