Colorado policy makers launch green energy, climate change proposals

Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado lawmakers are pushing a baker’s-dozen of bills they say will help move the state toward a clean energy economy.

The package of bills highlighted Wednesday, some of which have been introduced, includes tax incentives to promote decarbonization and electrification, geothermal energy, electric vehicle charging station requirements and streamlining permitting approval for solar energy projects.

“There’s a lot of cost-saving measures, as well as improvements in life quality for everyday Coloradans that are really built into the fabric of these bills,” Polis said. They also include industrial policy updates, he added.

Polis described the package as both setting the vision for Colorado’s energy future and giving the state tools to reach it. A proposal sponsored by state Sen. Chris Hansen, SB23-016, would set the state’s emission standards to net-zero by 2050. The state has additional goals of 100% renewable energy by 2040. Hansen’s bill has been previously introduced. He said Wednesday he sees a clear path for it to become law.

Perhaps the most consumer-focused proposal is a slew of point-of-sale tax credits for electric vehicles, electric bicycles, and electric lawn equipment and snowblowers.

Currently, Coloradans are eligible for up to $9,500 in tax credits when they buy a new electric vehicle when federal programs are included, according to the state. This proposal would up the state’s incentive from $2,000 to $5,000 — which, notably, will be applied at the point of sale.

The proposal will additionally ramp up for people shopping for lower-priced electric vehicles. Rep. Mike Weissman, an Aurora Democrat who will sponsor the yet-to-be-introduced bill, said they wanted to open up the program to people with lower and moderate incomes.

“We have a moral obligation to aggressively lead in this and to set an example of what states can do so that other states will follow, and eventually so that other nations will follow what we’re doing,” Weissman said.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, said the state tax credits for electric vehicles and other programs would meet local needs while also building off federal programs to maximize federal tax credits that come to the state.

The package also includes a bill aimed at promoting electric vehicle charging stations, particularly in multi-family home developments. Polis vetoed a bill last year with a similar aim over concerns that it would have put certain technical requirements in law. He said this one provides more flexibility.

Lawmakers also took aim at promoting decarbonization by incentivizing new technology.

State Rep. Ruby Dickson, a Democrat from Centennial, said she’s seen no credible climate models for stopping rising global temperatures that don’t include carbon management.

“We have an opportunity to really take the lead on this and not only to achieve our climate goals, but also because it could be an amazing economic opportunity,” Dickson, who is sponsoring some of the decarbonizing bills, said.

Polis, as chair of the Western Governors’ Association, has promoted geothermal energy through the “heat beneath our feet” initiative. The package of bills would include tax incentives for using that source of energy in the state.

The package comes as the Joint Budget Committee, which drafts the state’s budget, readies its spending proposal. Outside of the tax credits, most of the proposals policy changes that would cost the state relatively little, Polis said, though many have not gone through a nonpartisan fiscal analysis yet. The tax credits are also temporary. The sponsors and Polis said the spending should fit within the state budget.

“We’ve structured these in a way that is affordable inside the state budget construct that doesn’t have an immediate impact on the general fund,” Hansen, a former member of the JBC, said.

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