In January Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and State House Democrats announced the introduction of a bill that would increase Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) from 20% to 30% by 2020. The Governor, who recently announced that he would not run for re-election, is putting the weight of his not insubstantial political capital behind the bill, HB-10 1001 as a cornerstone of his gubernatorial legacy. Consequently, the Bill was symbolically proposed as the first bill of the 2010 legislative session.

On February 11, HB-10 1001 passed the House on its second reading. The Bill, which is broadly supported by Democrats, conservation organizations (see, e.g. the Sierra Club, Environment Colorado and Colorado Conservation Voters) the renewable energy industry and organized labor (the Bill has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO), is widely expected to pass in time for Governor Ritter to sign it into law before the conclusion of his term. Opposition to the Bill (and to increasing Colorado’s RES generally) includes the State Republican Party (which sees the Bill as boon to labor unions because it requires certain distributed generation facilities to be installed by licensed and certified contractors) and the oil and natural gas industry, for obvious reasons. (See, e.g. the Colorado Mining Association).

The major Colorado utilities, such as Xcel Energy, appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the Bill, having neither endorsed nor opposed it. According to a spokesman for the Governor’s office, Xcel, Colorado’s largest utility, is expected to meet the current RES five years ahead of schedule. However, according to a recent editorial in the Denver Post, Xcel supports passage of the Bill provided that it enables Xcel to meet the RES requirement without exceeding the two percent surcharge billed to ratepayers for renewable energy development.

In addition to increasing the RES standard overall, the Bill places greater emphasis on distributed generation resources as a means of fulfilling the RES. For a decent summary of the bill, as well as updates on its progress, check out Colorado Capital Watch.