Amendment has little support

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It's hard to find a supporter of the renewable energy amendment in Northwest Colorado.

If passed by Colorado voters Nov. 2, Amendment 37 will require energy companies to use renewable energy sources to produce 10 percent of their power by 2015.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Company has spent $230,000 to defeat the ballot question. Yampa Valley Electric Association's board of directors unanimously oppose the amendment. Even a local environmentalist says he won't vote for it.

"We are wholeheartedly in support of green energy. But we don't like the mandate we have to buy the power," YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell said.

Proponents of the amendment say it would cost consumers next to nothing. YVEA purchases its power from Xcel Energy, the state's largest utility, and Ron Binz, an analyst of the utility industry, estimates Xcel will see no change in rates.

"This renewable measure's impact on consumers' bills will probably be unnoticeable. Most likely, statewide rates will remain unchanged," Binz said in a statement.

But YVEA and Xcel disagree.

YVEA estimates the mandate would cost its customers $8.7 million to $22.5 million during the next 20 years, Chappell said. Xcel and Tri-State estimate the implementation of the mandate could cost as much $1.5 billion during the same time period.

The amendment applies only to power companies with 40,000 or more customers. But YVEA and its 24,000 customers, the majority of whom reside in Moffat and Routt counties, will see electric rate increases as the cost of the measure trickles down from Xcel Energy, Chappell said.

Although the amendment includes a 50-cent cap on electric rate hikes for residential customers, there's no limit on the increase businesses could see, said Jeani Frickey, spokeswoman for Citizens for Sensible Energy Choices, a group of energy companies, including YVEA and Excel, opposing the amendment.

Binz's study concedes that if any part of Colorado is financially affected by the amendment, it would be rural parts of the state. Ranchers could feel the effect when prices for electricity at irrigation pumps increase, Frickey said.

YVEA already gives its customers the option to purchase green power, Chappell said. Customers who choose to purchase green power pay an average of 3 cents more per kilowatt hour.

About 400 YVEA customers request green power, Chappell said.

Dr. Allan Reishus, an environmental advocate in Craig, said he would be unlikely to vote for the amendment.

"My feeling is I'm in favor of renewable energy, but I'm less than overwhelmed we have to make it mandatory for energy producers," Reishus said.

The amendment requires energy producers to generate 4 percent of renewable energy with solar power. It's likely the other 6 percent will come from wind energy.

Reishus has concerns about wind power because, he said, wind mills can kill migratory birds.

Bob Grubb, environmental representative on the Moffat County Land Use Board, said he'd support the amendment.

Because there has to be a changeover in energy sources at some point, Grubb said, we ought to make it now.

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