A big win for Colorado: Energy efficiency bill signed by the Governor!

By Susan Nedell

After a roller coaster of a legislative session, a broad coalition of business and environmental groups has prevailed, with the legislative passage of a ten-year extension of Colorado’s utility energy efficiency programs. With just over 24 hours left in the session, the bill passed with four Republican votes and the entire Democratic caucus. This achievement would not have been possible without the unified effort of a robust in-state coalition, which included E2’s Rocky Mountains chapter.

House Bill 1227 reauthorizes an existing policy that requires the Colorado Public Utilities commission to set ten-year energy savings goals for investor-owned utilities Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. Since the law’s establishment in 2007, the utilities surpassed their 5% energy savings goals with flying colors, expecting to reach 12% savings. In 2015 alone, these efficiency standards helped save enough energy to power 332,000 households.

It is well documented: every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs saves customers nearly three dollars on their electric bills. The energy savings driven by House Bill 1227 will save residential and commercial ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars on utility costs, freeing up money to be invested back into the economy and spurring further job creation.

Colorado’s energy efficiency sector is already 40,335 jobs strong, representing 65% of all clean energy jobs in the state and spanning diverse professions from research and development to engineering, manufacturing, and installation. These stable jobs aren’t at the whim of Colorado’s oil and gas boom and bust cycles. The burgeoning clean energy sector helped propel Colorado’s thriving economy, which ranks among the top five states in GDP growth. All this, thanks largely to House Bill 1227’s 2007 predecessor.

The passage of House Bill 1227 ensures the continued expansion of the energy efficiency industry in Colorado, providing more residents and businesses with low-cost, low-carbon, reliable energy.

For example, entrepreneur Brice Leconte founded iUnit Technologies LLC, to redefine buildings’ impact on the communities that host them. As it stands, buildings are responsible for 70% of all electricity consumption and half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood is home to iUnit’s first multifamily development, Eliot Flats. The complex is composed of highly energy efficient units that are factory-built and then shipped and stacked on-site. iUnit is also working with the Department of Energy, who is currently testing the efficiency of a prototype modular unit at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. Over the course construction of Eliot Flats, iUnit employed more than 100 workers.

To those who value energy savings, cost savings, and job creation, passing a clean HB1227 was simply the right thing to do for Coloradans. We applaud the Colorado General Assembly for heeding the facts on energy efficiency, and we will urge the Public Utilities Commission to set the state’s most ambitious goals yet.

UPDATE:  On May 18, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law HB1227 at the STEM Lab Elementary School in North Glenn.  An enthusiastic group of students participated in the ceremony – all having worked on energy efficiency projects in class. It was a terrific celebration!

Susan Nedell is E2’s Rocky Mountains Advocate.