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Rural Coloradans May Have To Pay More For Electricity

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans might have to pay more for electricity under a controversial new law that requires rural electric co-ops produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Opponents called it “The War on Rural Colorado,” pitting farmer against environmentalist and causing Gov. John Hickenlooper great angst.

“I had misgivings,” Hickenlooper said.

After sitting for weeks on a bill that doubles the renewable energy standard for rural co-ops, Hickenlooper signed it into law, saying he doesn’t buy the claim it will cause huge price hikes.

The bill limits rate increases to 2 percent, or about $2 a month for most customers.

“If they can’t achieve by 2020, then they don’t have to. That’s the whole point of that cap,” Hickenlooper said.

But co-ops say new infrastructure will cost up to $2 billion and they’ll hit the cap before they even finish it.

“What do they do? Do they just scrap the entire project? Does it go away? Nobody has the answers to those questions,” said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

Waller says Democrats are sticking it to rural Colorado. But Hickenlooper says the bill will help rural communities by creating jobs, protecting against volatile price hikes, and increasing clean energy.

“I don’t think the sky’s falling in terms of climate change. I do worry more each year about the probability of climate change,” Hickenlooper said.

“This isn’t about climate change. This is about paying special interests back in the state of Colorado. It’s about paying back wind and solar,” Waller said.

While it is now law, the issue isn’t over. By signing it, the governor issued an executive order directing the Energy Office and co-ops to work together and determine exactly what the impact will be. If it’s not as billed, Hickenlooper says Democratic leadership has agreed to make changes in the law.

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