Governor Hickenlooper was in Montrose Friday, May 30, to sign into law bipartisan legislation, HB14-1030, which will streamline development of new small hydropower in Colorado. The bill-signing took place at one of Colorado’s leading-edge new small hydroelectric projects, the South Canal Hydroelectric Plant, co-owned by the local irrigation company, Uncompahgre Water Users Association (UVWUA), and Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA).
“Last summer, federal permitting requirements for small hydro were streamlined thanks to Colorado legislators in Congress,” said Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA) president Kurt Johnson. “Thanks to leadership from Colorado legislators in Denver, today similar state-level streamlining legislation has become law in Colorado, further underscoring Colorado’s leadership in hydro policy innovation.”
The new Colorado hydro reform bill follows in the footsteps of federal hydro streamlining legislation which was approved last summer:the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez).
The new law directs the Colorado Energy Office to facilitate hydro project review by Colorado state agencies in a timely manner commensurate with federal agency timelines, making it possible for a project applicant to simultaneously clear federal and state review as quickly as 60 days for non-controversial small hydro projects.
The residents of Delta and Montrose counties are already realizing the benefits of hydroelectric power through the South Canal Project. The project offsets the cost of power especially during hot summer months when power is in high demand and the price goes up.
“Considering the extremely low financing rate made available to us through Clean Renewable Energy Bonds,” said DMEA board presiden , Nancy Hovde, “the system should service the debt in under 20 years. After that debt is paid, it’s going to be the cheapest power that we would likely have access to.”
The new bill also streamlines the electrical inspection process for small hydro by specifying the National Electrical Code standards that electricians and inspectors should be guided by when installing small hydro, following in the footsteps of streamlined procedures that apply for small wind generators.
In January, the Colorado Department of Agriculture announced the results from an agricultural hydropower assessment. The report highlighted pressurized irrigation as the most cost effective near-term opportunity for agricultural hydropower development. The statewide untapped capacity estimate of pressurized irrigation systems is approximately 30 MW, most all of which could be cost-effectively developed.
“Energy can be a significant operational cost for Colorado agricultural producers,” said Colorado Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Ron Carleton. “Agricultural hydropower can help Colorado agricultural producers to reduce energy costs by powering their operations with hydropower rather than electricity or diesel.”
The new Colorado hydro streamlining legislation builds upon Colorado’s history of leadership in hydropower policy Innovation. Colorado modified an existing water infrastructure loan program at the Colorado Water Conservation Board to make low-interest loan financing available for small hydro construction. The new 8-megawatt Tri-County Water hydro project at Ridgway Dam, made possible by low-interest loan financing from CWCB, is being formally commissioned on June 6 at 1 p.m.
“One of the greatest benefits of HB14-1030 is that it has the potential to enable more local, distributed generation to become a reality,” said Hovde. “I believe this is the future for electric utilities, and I am excited to be here today as the governor signs this bill into law and starts the distributed generation ‘revolution’ that I am confident is coming!”