Renewable Power Opt-Out Proposed in Colorado

Published April 4, 2010

Electricity customers will have the right to decide whether they want to purchase costly renewable power instead of power from conventional sources under a proposed ballot initiative filed with the Colorado Legislative Council. The initiative would trump ongoing efforts in the state to force customers to purchase higher-priced renewable power.

The measure was filed by private citizens and backed by the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP), a citizens’ activist group that promotes affordable energy, property rights, and job security throughout the West. It must clear a series of legal and language hurdles before being placed on the ballot.

Restores Original Provision
The proposal restores an option included in Amendment 37, which Colorado voters approved in 2004. That referendum required the state’s largest utilities to obtain at least 10 percent of their power generation from renewable sources by the year 2015, but allowed customers to vote to exempt themselves from that provision.

In 2007 lawmakers increased the renewable portfolio standard to 20 percent for Xcel Energy and removed customers’ right to opt out of the higher-priced electricity.

“In this economy, families should have the right to buy less expensive electricity,” said WTP government relations director Dan Fuchs in a press statement. “It comes down to one question: Who controls your family budget: You, or the political class?”

Activists Push Back
Environmental activists wasted no time lobbing insults at those backing the measure.

“These initiatives must have been drafted by the Colorado chapter of the Flat Earth Society,” said Pam Kiely, legislative director for Environment Colorado, to the Denver Daily News.

Also in March, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed a law raising Colorado’s renewable energy requirements to 30 percent of utilities’ power generation sources by 2020.

This will add further pressure for electric companies to raise rates for customers, as they will have to substitute costly resources for less expensive ones such as coal.

“Energy that works doesn’t need compulsory purchase laws,” WTP public relations director Donny Ferguson said. “Energy that doesn’t work doesn’t deserve compulsory purchase laws. The people were promised choice, and that promise must be kept.”

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is a special correspondent for The Heartland Institute and director of Climate Strategies Watch.