Colorado brings homegrown power to the people

Environment Colorado

On the solar-powered Szabo Farm outside Longmont, farmers and ranchers, conservationists, and electric utilities gathered as Gov. Bill Ritter signed the Homegrown Power Act into law today. A bipartisan group of legislators came together to extend the opportunity of clean, renewable energy to every Coloradan.   
The Homegrown Power Act will ensure that all Colorado homeowners and businesses can interconnect a renewable energy system and receive a fair credit for excess electricity produced (also called net-metering) by their own solar, wind, or geothermal energy systems, as well as other renewable forms of energy.

“Today, we bring the New Energy Economy home,” said Pam Kiely, legislative program director of Environment Colorado. “The Homegrown Power Act makes clean energy more accessible and affordable for all Coloradans.”  

Often times, solar and wind energy systems for homes and businesses produce more electricity than a single home or business may need in a single month.  That excess electricity goes into the grid and can provide clean energy to additional customers. By ensuring that Coloradans receive a fair credit for the clean energy produced, the payback shortens for homeowners and businesses that invest in clean energy systems.

“The wind blowing across our farms and ranches can now power homes, businesses, and schools,” said Tony Frank, Renewable Energy Development Director at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “Rural Colorado wins with homegrown power. By encouraging our farmers and ranchers to develop clean energy systems locally, we connect our rural communities to advanced technology, support their bottom lines, and increase our state’s energy independence.” 

Prior to the bill’s passage, only Colorado’s largest electric utilities and a handful smaller electric cooperatives and municipal utilities provided compensation to their customers.  This measure ensures a fair rate for all Coloradans and will help spur investment into solar power and other forms of clean energy. 
Conservationists hail the bill as an important step in helping individuals become a part of the solution in the fight against global warming and in the efforts to increase our energy independence. 
“By empowering individuals to participate in the New Energy Economy, we can keep Colorado beautiful, clean-up our air, and cut global warming pollution,” said Pam Kiely, legislative program director for Environment Colorado. “The sun will soon rise over a half million solar roofs in Colorado. Today’s a step forward in that vision for our New Energy Economy.”  

The program provides benefits to utilities too. For example, home solar systems can help fulfill the high demand for electricity during the summer, helping utilities avoid the need to pay for additional energy when wholesale electricity rates are at their highest.

About the Homegrown Power Act

  • Requires rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities to interconnect and fairly meter renewable systems up to 10 kW on homes, and 25 kW on businesses, including farms and ranches.
  • Extra electricity generated by the customer in one month is credited in kilowatt-hours on the next month’s bill. (much like “Rollover” minutes on a cell phone plan)
  • Gives coops and munis flexibility regarding how they handle any remaining net excess generation at the end of each annual period.

The bill was supported by a coalition of broad interests, including the Governor’s Energy Office, Independent Bankers of Colorado, Sun Edison, CoSEIA, Bergey Windpower, Colorado Corn, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union,  Colorado Rural Electric Association, Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities, Colorado Springs Utility, and Environment Colorado. Rep. Judy Solano (D-Brighton) sponsored the bill in the House, where it passed 63-1 on February 13. Senators Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) led the bill through the Senate, where it passed March 7, 2008, by 30-3.