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Colorado bill to optimize electrical grid for clean energy signed into law

Today, Governor Polis will sign into law SB24-218 — The Modernize Energy Distribution Systems Act (Powering Up Colorado), marking a significant milestone in the state’s transition to clean energy. This comprehensive legislation introduces a suite of policy changes aimed at modernizing our local electric grid, ensuring proactive investments and fostering the adoption of clean energy technologies.

SB24-218, sponsored by Senate President Steve Fenberg, Senator Chris Hansen, House Majority Leader Monica Duran and Representative Kyle Brown, addresses critical challenges facing Colorado’s energy landscape. It advances the capabilities of the electric distribution system to meet Colorado’s ambitious de-carbonization goals. The bill also helps to align electric distribution system plans with state energy goals, including the Colorado Energy Office’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap 2.0.

“As more Coloradans choose cost-saving clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, our utilities must be able to quickly connect them to a safe and reliable distribution grid,” said Colorado Energy Office executive director Will Toor. “This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that the power grid keeps up with our efforts to protect the climate, improve air quality, and lower energy costs for Coloradans across the state.”

Nate Gutierrez, Business Manager for IBEW Local 111, Colorado’s largest utility workers union, called out the immediate benefits for the skilled labor workforce and improved infrastructure, saying, “We are investing in our future in more ways than one.” said IBEW. “This law creates jobs, allocates grant money for apprenticeships, and assures that good jobs are waiting on the other side of graduation with real long-term workforce planning requirements for Xcel Energy.”

This legislation will also help home and business owners to connect planned clean energy projects by avoiding grid shortages, which can assist in unlocking more than 300 MW currently on hold.

“With the Governor’s signature, dozens of projects will move from the waitlist toward interconnection,” said Mike Kruger, president and CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, “which means more clean energy, more clean air, and more customer control of their utility bills.”

To accommodate more renewable energy and battery storage on the grid, the bill strengthens Distribution System Planning (DSP) by encouraging long-term infrastructure improvements by tying the utility’s DSPs directly to cost recovery. Utilities will further be required to prioritize investments in income-qualified or disproportionately impacted communities with residential capacity constraints, improving equity outcomes as the plan is implemented.

“This law is a critical step forward for Colorado to remain the leader in the West for distribution system planning,” said Sara Birmingham, VP of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Neighboring states should take notice of Colorado’s thoughtful approach in developing this framework, which provides critical resources for utilities, decreases interconnection wait times and creates opportunities for new solar and storage development across the state.”

Xcel Energy’s next DSP will be the first in the nation to incorporate load and generation that empowers customers to participate in demand response programs and leverage distributed resources effectively. This novel approach to planning also opens the door for essential components of a carbon-free energy future like Virtual Power Plants.

News item from COSSA

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