IREA’s energy evolution

In 2013, when the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 13-252 mandating a higher renewable energy portfolio standard for rural electric cooperatives, IREA opposed the bill, writing in this publication that it represented “only the latest in an unfortunate series of government distortions of the energy marketplace.” At the time, only 9.3% of IREA’s energy came from renewable resources and many at IREA felt that the finish line had been moved right when IREA was poised to meet the state’s original renewable energy standard of 10%. Much has changed in the last six years.

In May of 2016, IREA broke ground on its first renewable energy project, Victory Solar, a 12.8-megawatt utility-scale solar garden that went into commercial operation by the end of that year.

Since 2015, the number of rooftop solar installations in IREA’s service territory has increased nearly 400%. IREA received more than 900 new applications for rooftop solar interconnections in 2019, and we expect that number to continue to increase as the cost of rooftop solar continues to be more competitive.

In the spring of 2019, IREA contracted to purchase another 80 MW of solar energy from the Pioneer Solar project underway near the town of Bennett. This facility is expected to be in operation by October of this year. IREA also signed a contract in 2019 to purchase 45 MW of solar energy from the Hunter Solar project, which is expected to begin commercial operation in 2022. IREA is also in talks with another solar developer to purchase 50-60 MW of solar energy from one more utility-scale solar project within the next couple of years. By 2025, IREA should be in position to have more than 187 megawatts of renewable energy as part of our energy mix. This development is a direct result of recently plunging solar energy costs, which now are low enough to allow developers to sell solar energy at or below IREA’s avoided cost.

Clean energy goals have moved again, with 2019 legislation requiring an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, moving to 90% by 2050. Whether these goals can be met and at what cost remains to be seen, but IREA is now taking a leadership role in seeking solutions. For instance, IREA is working with legislators at the General Assembly to pass legislation that will move Colorado in the direction of joining a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). An RTO will provide a regional wholesale power market, centralized dispatch of energy and transmission rates that allow more efficient transmission of energy across different systems. These features are essential to cost-effective grid integration of large-scale renewable energy projects. We are working to ensure that we and other utilities in Colorado obtain the tools needed to produce cleaner energy reliably and at the lowest reasonable cost.

We work year-round to represent the interests of IREA customers. You can stay updated on these efforts by signing up for legislative alerts. Visit our Contact Us page, then submit an inquiry using the contact form and subject “Legislative Alert Sign Up.”