Colorado Gov Polis unveils roadmap to 100% carbon free by 2040, signs 11 clean energy bills

Source: By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Colorado’s 2019 legislative session was a victory for clean energy advocates, though there has been some tension between industry groups and environmentalists over how strict the regulatory process should be.

Two of the signed bills focus on addressing climate change through emissions reductions and, similar to the governor’s “Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040 and Bold Climate Action,” outline processes for achieving those reductions through voluntary goals, rather than mandates.

The “mandate”-versus-“goal” debate was a point of tension between the governor and the Democratic Speaker of the House, KC Becker, as they were developing the 90% economy-wide carbon reduction bill, with Polis opposing enforceable mandates. Environmentalists in general tend to prefer mandates over voluntary goals, while businesses often prefer the latter.

“More regulation is important in order to ensure that at least, at a very minimum, a floor is set that’s enforceable,” Sam Gilchrist, western campaigns director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive. “And so I’m always worried that if there isn’t some sort of regulation put in place, that bad actors are able to sort of find loopholes in what could be otherwise a voluntary process.”

But the utility and automobile industry often advocate for more flexibility in policy, which they say gives them the space to exceed what mandates would require.

Last year, the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) adopted a low emission vehicle standard and earlier this month, they voted unanimously to begin the process of adopting a zero emission vehicle standard. Colorado’s auto companies say they’ll be able to go beyond what the rule would require if the process is voluntary.

“They’re trying to get the governor’s office … and the air quality control commission to not adopt the [zero emissions vehicle (ZEV)] rule and say they’ll voluntarily go beyond that,” said Gilchrist. “To me, it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, if they want to go beyond the ZEV rule, 1) they would already be doing it, and 2) they wouldn’t be worried about the ZEV rule being adopted because they would be going beyond that anyway.”

Polis’ “Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040 and Bold Climate Action” is focused on “modernizing” the PUC to consider climate impacts in its decision making, promote energy efficiency and incentivize EV buildout, among other things.

“The roadmap is not just about a vision, but includes concrete steps that will help us reap the economic benefits of renewable energy, curb pollution of our air, and fight climate change,” Polis said in a statement. “Colorado has always been a leader in clean-tech innovation and we have no intentions of slowing down.”

Last week, Glenwood Springs, Colorado became the seventh city in the U.S. to be powered by 100% renewable energy and Xcel, the state’s largest utility, has one of the most aggressive utility clean energy goals in the country

“This has been a really great legislative session for climate and clean energy in Colorado,” Gilchrist said. “So Colorado is really on a good path forward.”