The O. Zone

Dems blast governor energy office bill

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMay 2, 2011
Two very different energy bills were debated in committees this week, with one aimed at making dramatic changes to the Governor’s Energy Office and the other proposing a system by which residential and business property owners can finance energy-efficiency improvements through their local electric utilities.

House Bill 1312, sponsored by Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, calls for the reorganization of the Governor’s Energy Office, the brainchild of former Gov. Bill Ritter and his “New Energy Economy.” It was slated for debate in the House Agriculture Committee, where Democrats promised a fight.

“It changes the name and cuts the staffing by 25 percent and takes out any reference to New Energy Economy,” said Max Tyler, D-Lakewood. “It takes out any reference to Governor’s Energy Office and turns it into the Colorado Energy Office, which isn’t the end of the world.

“But it also strikes wherever it’s ‘renewable energy’ and it’s now ‘innovative energy,’ which is code for coal, oil and gas, so it’s a drastic change in direction for the state. It turns us 180 degrees and has us marching straight backwards.”

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, would allow business owners and homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades to their properties and finance the upfront costs of the improvements through their local utility. Ratepayers would pay back the loan through a monthly fee on their bill equal to or less than the energy savings gained through the upgrades, according to a release.

“This is one of the few bills that actually reduces dollar amounts that people pay on their utility bills,” Johnston told colleagues during a hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which approved the bill 4-3. It now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Approximately 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. is consumed in buildings, which could be made up to 50 percent more efficient with currently available upgrades, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Convenient financing supported by Xcel Energy and other utilities will enable more consumers to implement home energy retrofit projects,” Howard Geller, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said in a release. “This in turn will save consumers money, support jobs, and reduce the need for costly and polluting new power plants.”

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