Legislative update: Energy aid, road safety at Capitol

Colorado’s 71st General Assembly has been busy as the legislature has spent the bulk of its time working out compromise bills to solve some of the state’s largest problems.

As our state continues to grow in population, key issues that have sparked disagreement for years at the General Assembly, such as transportation funding and construction litigation reform, have reached a fever pitch this year. While transportation funding and the lack of affordable housing due to onerous builder liability laws have garnered many of the local headlines, the electric utility industry has not been completely ignored by lawmakers this session.

As we have in the past, IREA takes positions on proposed legislation that will affect our association and its members in an effort to continue to provide reliable service at a low cost. Below are descriptions of three such bills our Government Affairs staff have engaged in on behalf of our customers:

IREA supported House Bill 17-1116, “Continue Low-Income Household Energy Assistance,” from Reps. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs), and Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik (R-Thornton). The bill continues funding for low-income energy assistance by the Department of Human Services, Energy Outreach Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office for the next five years. Additional funding for the program comes through donations. For example, IREA matches donations made by our customers to Energy Outreach Colorado dollar-for-dollar, up to $75,000 a year. For info on how to contribute to this program through your monthly bill, or make a one-time payment, go to www.IREA.coop/community-involvement/energy-assistance/.

IREA opposed Senate Bill 145, “Electric Utility Distribution Grid Resource Acquisition Plan,” by Sen.Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and Rep. Mike Foote (D-Lafayette). This bill would have required utilities to submit a proposal for approval by the Public Utilities Commission to integrate distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar and battery storage, into their plans to acquire new infrastructure as part of new electrical grid architecture. Cooperative utilities like IREA voted years ago to entrust elected boards of directors to make such decisions on behalf of the members who elected them, and are not currently required to seek approval from the PUC to make these decisions. This bill would have changed the way Colorado’s cooperative utilities’ members chose to operate their own co-ops. The bill also would have required utilities to procure an indeterminate amount of solar resources using ratepayer money. We are pleased that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Fenberg, recognized the problems the bill would have caused and asked that the Senate Agriculture Committee postpone it indefinitely. The bill died by unanimous vote.

IREA also supported Senate Bill 229, “Penalties When Passing Stationary Vehicles,” from Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Reps. Polly Lawrence (R- Roxborough) and Diane Mitsch Bush (D- Steamboat Springs). The bill adds public utility service vehicles to the list of vehicles that drivers must take additional care when passing on roadways. Commonly referred to as the “move over” law, it increases penalties if death or bodily harm is caused by a driver not following the law.

For more information about IREA’s legislative advocacy efforts, click here.