Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bill Aimed at Forcing IREA to Expand Programs for Energy Conservation Clears House Committee

A House committee approved Tuesday a measure that would require all rural electric cooperatives with more than 100,000 customers to implement conservation programs.

While the bill does not name any particular rural electric cooperative, it is aimed at the only such entity in Colorado with that many customers - Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA).

IREA, which is based in Sedalia and serves customers in Douglas, El Paso, Park, Teller, Clear Creek, Elbert, Arapahoe and Adams counties, has strongly resisted efforts to strengthen programs aimed at reducing electricity use.

The organization, through a vote of its members, opted out of Amendment 37 in 2005. That vote, in which only a small percentage of the cooperative's members voted, stood in contrast to the vote on Amendment 37 in its service territory. More than 50 percent of the electorate in IREA's service area supported Amendment 37 when it was on the ballot in 2004.

Under current state law rural electric cooperatives who have not opted out of Amendment 37 must generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Under HB 1323, IREA would have to implement conservation and energy efficiency progams that would achieve a use of renewable energy equivalent to two percent of its 2008 sales by 2012 and to ten percent of its 2008 sales by 2020.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, must also be approved by the House Appropriations Committee before it is considered by the full House.

IREA, in addition to opting out of Amendment 37, has also spent large amounts of money on efforts to convince the public that global climate change is not happening or that it is a natural event.

A grass-roots organization called IREA Voices has been organized to advocate for greater use of renewable energy sources and energy conservation programs by the organization.

IREA Voices is sponsoring three candidates for seats on the annual election for seats on the organization's Board of Directors. The election for those seats is to be completed April 18.