March 2021
Greetings,
The nation looked on in horror recently when the Texas electricity grid proved completely unable to handle a major winter storm and plunged millions into darkness and cold. While most experts put the blame squarely on Texas’ deregulatory policies, the event did highlight the rapidly changing nature of electricity delivery and the need for changes as renewable energy becomes more prevalent. Some Colorado utilities also paid extremely high prices for natural gas during that period. Gov. Polis is seeking to prevent Texas-style gas hikes , and the Public Utilities Commission has opened an investigation.*
In Colorado’s current legislative session, there are numerous debates on the future of electricity, and lots of opportunities for you to weigh in. We examine some of them in this issue.

*To submit written comments in the PUC investigatory proceeding on the gas price spike, go to the following site: https://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI_COMMENT_GUI.Gas and select “Rulemaking and Investigations Initiated by Colorado Public Utilities Commission." Then select “21I-0076EG - Investigation into the weather event of February 13-15, 2021 for Investor Owned Utilities." Comments may be submitted on the page titled “Register Your Public Comment."
Carrying Clean Energy to Market

Efforts to build the new " superhighways'' that carry electricity are underway in Colorado - but so are efforts to control costs and avoid overbuilding.
Xcel Energy recently announced plans to invest $1.7 billion in transmission in order to unlock 5,500 MW of largely new renewables projects in Colorado. The proposal includes five segments of high voltage transmission lines as part of its new energy plan.
Meanwhile, a bill by Sen. Chris Hansen and Rep. Alex Valdez proposes to set up a Colorado transmission authority to help speed the construction of new electric highway lines to carry clean energy to market. The bill intends to create a faster review for needed new transmission projects and bring cost-savings by overcoming some of the turf wars that have hindered past efforts. The bill also tries to overcome Colorado’s status as an energy “island’’ by requiring utilities to join together in a regional transmission organization that would allow power providers to enhance reliability and share resources more efficiently across state lines.
Clean energy advocates will try to make sure the least expensive options are chosen, that alternatives are fully considered, and that future retirement of fossil plants are factored into plans. Read more: SB21-072.
Transmission line fires have been blamed for sparking catastrophic wildfires in California and efforts are also underway to provide incentives for utilities to clear trees around power lines.  
Storing Energy from the Sun and Wind

As we all know, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow – and clean energy can be made more reliable at all times through more energy storage. Whether it’s a battery to provide back-up for your rooftop solar system or a huge array of batteries to support a much bigger solar project, energy storage is a critical part of the solution. Currently, battery systems are expensive but with greater deployment, costs are dropping. In the legislature, a bill that would tax energy storage systems the same as other renewable energy (SB21-020) is moving along. Another bill that would set energy storage targets to speed deployment is expected soon.
Creating a Two-Way Energy System

The Public Utilities Commission is engaged in a planning process for the electric power distribution system for the first time. In the past, such planning was a “black box’’ under the control of utilities. Regulators decided that is no longer adequate for the emerging world in which the interface between customers and electric power can enable customer investments to play an important role in building a more resilient and cost-effective system that helps reduce carbon emissions. These resources include rooftop solar, energy efficiency, vehicle to grid electricity, smart devices, demand response and residential energy storage. As the distribution system evolves to become a two-way path, it can play a much bigger role in integrating clean energy and smoothing out peaks and valleys of demand. After initial comments, the plan has been referred to PUC Commissioner Megan Gilman serving as a hearing officer. You can read all the filings here.
Build Resilience Into Your Own Home By Learning from the Experts
If you are curious about how you might reduce your chance of being left cold and without power, the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is for you.

Through our virtual tour, you can see how your neighbors transformed regular houses into extraordinary homes, and how builders created homes that use net zero energy. Short videos will make you feel like you are learning directly from the homeowners.

You can see energy-saving technologies in action including solar electricity from PV panels, Solar heat from thermal panels, air source and ground source heat pumps, and state-of-the-art efficiency measures throughout. You can find tips for your home by watching videos and listening to expert lectures from top pros.

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Upcoming Events

Have a Sustainability Problem?
Get it Solved, For Free
The Clean Energy Solutions Summit on April 21 is the Mountain West’s premier event for energy users to meet up with clean energy providers to find solutions. It is open to municipal, commercial and industrial, utility/co-op, and non-profit energy management and sustainability leaders and decision makers. Industry experts who can help provide solutions and others interested can find more information:.
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Three Stories We Think You'll Want to Read



Energy Tips: From Cheap to Steep
Is Your Home Able to Withstand Bad Weather?
RESILIENCE:  Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
This is a wonderful definition for how we want our homes to behave in bad weather and therefore be sustainable with the ultimate power of Mother Nature.
1) Plugging holes is the first and easiest step to staying comfortable, preventing frozen water pipes and reducing energy consumption.
2) Only after that, can we consider adding expensive big-box items like replacing an old furnace, windows, or adding PV panels.
3) Finally, Battery Back-up is becoming cheaper, but as long as the electrical grid is reliable, it is the last on the list for big ticket items to add.

For more detailed information on these options:
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Produced for New Energy Colorado by Rebecca Cantwell