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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Harnessing Colorado's natural wind + solar power
Following the collection of 110,000 signatures a state-wide ballot will now go ahead in Colorado this November to decide whether the Colorado Renewable Energy Initiative should force the state's major utility companies (such as Xcel Energy, Aquila, Delta-Montrose and InterMountain) to obtain 10% of their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal + hydroelectric power by 2015.

Although Colorado has enough wind + sun to meet its power needs more than 10 times over, the state currently gets only 2% of its energy from renewable sources. Increasing this margin to 10% would have the same environmental impact as removing pollution from 600,000 cars each year (according to the EPA) + help to alleviate the risks posed by global climate change.

This ballot will be the first of its kind in the United States and its 10% renewables goal has the support of approximately 75% of registered voters. Farmers and ranchers are also keen to diversify their incomes by installing wind turbines and beginning to sell power into the grid.

The initiative specifies that at least 4% of the state's energy must be generated by solar electric generation technologies and that half of this amount must be derived from technologies located with the customer.

Customers who install solar electricity generators will be entitled to a $2 per watt rebate for installations up to a maximum size of 100 kilowatts. The impact of renewable energy resources on the retail rate will also be limited to 50 cents per month for residential customers and extra credit will be provided in order to encourage the construction of renewable facilities in Colorado.

To date, 16 other states have adopted renewable energy requirements. The maximum amount and source of the renewable energy varies by state, ranging from 1.1% of the total electricity generated in Arizona (mostly solar) to 30% in Maine (mostly hydroelectric).

If you would like to find out more about this initiative, opposition to it, or Exel Energy's bid to speed up the approval of a new coal power station (while two of its existing power plants are under notice of violation from the Environmental Protection Agency) you might like to visit the Environment Colorado webite or to sign a petition on the RenewableEnergyYES.com website which asks Xcel Energy to reconsider its opposition to the renewables initiative.

[Thanks to Lisa + Robin]