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The Colorado Sun: With Colorado Governor’s Signature, the State’s Electric Utilities Now Must Invest in Upgrades for the Future

Posted by Emilie Olson on May 22, 2024

In an opinion column featured in The Colorado Sun, United's Emilie Olson advocates for Colorado Governor Jared Polis to sign Senate Bill 218, which would require state electric utilities to proactively and strategically invest in distribution grid updates and connect communities to clean energy efficiently and transparently.

Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are making the switch to electrify their homes, vehicles, and businesses, and while this is impressive and commendable, it requires a lot of power. The truth is that much of our electricity grid was built over half a century ago and did not anticipate the transition to advanced energy resources, like electric vehicles and rooftop solar systems.

 We need new legislation and regulation to ensure the electricity grid is prepared to accommodate new, cleaner technologies. If we fail to act, our electricity system will struggle to supply and deliver the power we need, especially during extreme weather. 

Senate Bill 218 offers a prudent, timely suite of strategies designed to fix these problems by requiring electric utilities to proactively and strategically invest in distribution grid upgrades to keep up with population growth and technology preferences, and we urge Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to sign this necessary bill into law.  

The distribution system planning process is a way for utilities to decide on what improvements must be made to the electric grid to ensure homes and businesses are connected and receiving the power they need. 

The current process for connecting all these resources involves making incremental upgrades to the grid, which is the most expensive approach, rather than well-planned and strategic large upgrades. The cumbersome process can be slow and opaque, making it more difficult for people to connect home energy solutions, like EV chargers  and rooftop solar systems, to the grid.

Xcel admitted to having over 4,000 interconnection applications waiting to connect to the grid. These delays threaten to stymie Colorado’s efforts to increase all-electric affordable housing, rebuild after wildfires and reduce building pollution. As Colorado continues to grow, this process will not be able to keep up with that growth unless changes are made. 

When enacted, Senate Bill 218 will help more than half a million Coloradans more efficiently access clean energy technology and easily and cost-effectively connect to the grid.  

Why does this matter? 

It’s not just electric vehicles that are projected to need more electricity. People are switching from gas furnaces to more efficient heat pumps, and households are installing rooftop solar and storage to avoid hefty utility bills. The proliferation of data centers in Denver and Colorado Springs, which consume large amounts of electricity, are also adding pressure on our grid.  

Significant changes to the distribution system planning process are necessary to ensure all communities can fully participate and benefit from the clean energy transition, and that includes ensuring that customers transitioning to advanced energy resources are able to easily connect to the grid in a timely and transparent way. Improving Colorado’s energy planning process is also an opportunity to better address the needs of communities that have struggled with underinvestment and fragile grid infrastructure.  

Even if advanced energy technologies weren’t available, our grid would need upgrading to better withstand extreme weather and avoid periodic blackouts. So as we make these inevitable investments, it makes sense to plan the upgrades more proactively, so we can do it cheaper, faster, and more effectively.

The answer may be found in better planning, and Senate Bill 218 is a necessary step in the right direction for the deployment of clean energy resources to build the electric grid of the future.

Read the full article here.

Topics: State Policy, United In The News, Colorado