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Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., has signed into law S.B.252, which increases the renewable energy standard (RES) for cooperative associations that provide wholesale electricity in Colorado and large electric associations that provide service to at least 100,000 meters. The bill expands Colorado's RES to 20% by 2020, while capping retail cost increases at 2%.

The bill, "Setting Renewable Energy Standards for Rural Colorado," authorizes the co-ops to collect a monthly surcharge to offset the cost of meeting the target. Hickenlooper also signed an executive order calling for the creation of a panel to study if the goal is achievable and if ratepayers get enough protection under the rate cap on the surcharge.

S.B.252 expands access to wind, solar and other clean energy for rural Colorado at a time when major renewable investments are being made across the region.

"We believe that this legislation, while imperfect, is necessary to keep diversifying electric generation and reaping the associated rate, economic and environmental benefits," Hickenlooper said. "Vetoing this bill and waiting until the 2014 legislation session for a more perfect version would set Colorado back one year in our pursuit of a more diverse energy portfolio. We cannot afford to lose this valuable time, especially with the expiration of the federal production tax credit on wind generation at the end of this year."

According to Western Resource Advocates (WRA), large cooperatives, such as Tri-State Generation and Transmission, have bet heavily on coal as a primary energy source and predicted that S.B.252 could lead to skyrocketing energy costs.

But according to the Colorado Energy Office, the 2% rate cap would limit average household bill increases to no more than $2 a month. Moreover, notes WRA, the falling costs of and increasing investment in renewable technologies like wind and solar, and the fact that there are no fuel costs associated with renewables, could ultimately lower electricity costs for consumers.

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