Here in Northwest Colorado, where electrical power is a main source of employment (in the power generating stations and the coal mines that supply them), a constitutional amendment mandating renewable energy seems like a lost cause.
But in a statewide poll, about 66 percent of Colorado voters said they would support an initiative to increase use of renewable energy to 10 percent by 2015.
If Amendment 37 passes, utilities serving 40,000 or more customers will have to generate 10 percent of their electricity with renewables, such as wind and solar power, by 2015. Tri-State and Xcel say Amendment 37 could cost them $2 billion during 20 years, which would be passed on to customers.
Yampa Valley Electric Association's board of directors oppose the amendment, saying it could drive up the costs of electricity. Even though the co-op doesn't have 40,000 customers, it purchases its power from Xcel Energy, which would have to pass increased costs on to co-ops.
Amendment 37 caps residential bills at 50 cents a month. But there is no cap for business, commercial, industrial or wholesale customers. So even though residents may feel that 50 cents is negligible, they should consider that increases in energy costs for businesses could drive up the costs of goods and services.
We're not opposed to renewable energy. In the long run, it makes great economic sense to wean ourselves from a finite supply of conventional fuels, which will become more expensive as these resources diminish. But renewable energy is an expensive proposition. As technology improves, the costs of renewables should become more affordable.
"We are wholeheartedly in support of green energy," said YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell, "but we don't like the mandate we have to buy the power."
We agree. YVEA already gives its customers the option to buy green power. Customers who choose to purchase energy from renewable sources pay an average of 3 cents more per kilowatt hour.
If the state's power companies are producing renewable energy and some customers are buying it, the footprint is in place to develop these resources without a political mandate to do so.