What a Difference a Few Elections Can Make

What a Difference a Few Elections Can Make

In 2018, new Governors were elected in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Likewise, state legislatures either remained in Democratic control or flipped to Democratic control in all three states. With new leadership, policymakers in these states made energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate action priorities in 2019 legislative sessions. The advances for energy efficiency policy are noteworthy.

In Colorado, the state legislature adopted minimum energy- and water-saving standards for 15 residential and commercial appliances and products sold in the state. This bill, HB19-1231, also establishes minimum energy and water standards on any products for which such standards are rolled back by the Federal government. Colorado residents and businesses are expected to save over $1 billion as a result this legislation.

The Colorado legislature also passed HB19-1260 which requires local jurisdictions to adopt a relatively recent version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) when they update their other building codes. This new policy will help ensure that new homes and commercial buildings across the state are built to high energy efficiency standards, thereby saving energy and money for occupants, increasing comfort and safety, and reducing pollutant emissions.

Other important new policies are contained in SB19-236, including a requirement that electric utilities and the Colorado PUC use a carbon emissions cost of at least $46 per ton of CO2 in all resource planning deliberations and decisions, including energy efficiency plan and program evaluations. This policy should result in additional energy efficiency and demand response programs passing cost effectiveness screening. In addition, SB19-236 includes a requirement that wholesale electric cooperatives submit resource plans to the Colorado PUC for review and approval. This policy could lead to expansion of the energy efficiency and demand response programs implemented by Tri-State Generation and Transmission and its member rural electric cooperatives.

The Colorado legislature also enacted new policies that will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the state. SB19-077 requires regulated electric utilities to develop and implement plans for investment in EV charging infrastructure, with PUC review and approval. It also allows utilities to recover the cost and earn a return on these investments. HB19-1159 extends state income tax credits for purchase or lease of EVs or plug-in hybrids in Colorado through 2025.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign all of these bills into law.

In New Mexico, two important new laws were adopted by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this year. HB-291 establishes energy savings requirements for New Mexico’s regulated electric utilities during 2021-30 (current requirements end in 2020). The bill also facilitates reform of the utility business model so that utilities are not penalized financially when they help their customers save energy.

HB-521 expands the role of utilities in electrifying New Mexico’s transportation system. The bill requires regulated utilities to develop programs to accelerate the deployment of EV charging infrastructure in partnership with third party charging companies. This includes charging infrastructure for light-duty passenger vehicles, as well as for public transit and publicly-owned fleets.

The Nevada legislature is still in session, but there is already progress to report. A bill that updates light bulb energy efficiency standards (AB-54) is moving towards adoption, as is a bill (SB-299) that adds electric school buses and charging infrastructure for buses to the state’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration program. In addition, SCR-3 will establish a Legislation Commission to examine the benefits of EVs in Nevada, ways the legislature can further encourage EV adoption, and ways to ensure that EV owners equitably contribute to the cost of maintaining roads and highways in the state.

All of the policies described above were actively supported by SWEEP, and some were proposals that SWEEP brought to legislators. Most of the bills won broad bipartisan support.

We are proud of these accomplishments, and we thank the bill sponsors and other supporters for recognizing that greater energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to both meet our energy needs and reduce pollution.

Howard Geller is the Executive Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), a public interest venture he founded in 2001. Howard also leads SWEEP’s work on utility energy efficiency policy and programs.