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Colorado bill to modernize community solar program passes both chambers

Denver, CO Senate Bill 24-207, introduced by Senate President Steve Fenberg (D–Boulder) with bipartisan support, has passed both the House and Senate chambers of the Colorado General Assembly and now awaits signature by Gov. Jared Polis to become law. This signifies a new era for Colorado as the state positions itself to take advantage of federal funding to support the clean energy transition. Senator Chris Hansen (D-Denver) and House Reps. Alex Valdez (D-Denver) and Matt Soper (R-Delta) joined Sen. Fenberg as the bill’s prime sponsors.

“All Coloradans, regardless of income level or homeownership status, should be able to participate in the transition to renewable energy,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg, sponsor of SB24-207. “With the passage of this bill, we have taken a major step to remove barriers to accessing solar energy — like homeownership or credit score requirements — to ensure renters, non-profits, and small businesses can take part without breaking the bank. With unprecedented federal funding opportunities through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, now is the time to revitalize Colorado’s community solar program and ensure our state remains a leader in renewable, clean energy use.”

This legislative victory comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth Day announcement that lead applicant Colorado Energy Office, along with other stakeholders, has been awarded $156 million to “help deliver lower utility bills and improved public health through reduced pollution from power generation, creating wealth and jobs for local communities,” and to deliver the benefits of solar to low-income and disadvantaged communities. If signed into law, SB24-207 will reserve at least 51% of each community solar project for income-qualified residential subscribers, in alignment with SFA grant applications as well as other currently available federal tax credit adders. 

“The passage of SB24-207 is a much-needed step towards revitalizing Colorado’s community solar program and ensuring that residents can access local, distributed clean energy,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Senior Director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “We are grateful for the support we have received from President Fenberg and the broad Colorado coalition as we work towards our shared goal of democratizing solar energy access.”

In 2010, Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass community solar legislation. Now, SB24-207 will help to catch Colorado up with other front-running community solar markets, and regain its leadership position among them. 

The legislation upgrades Colorado’s community solar program by adopting policy best practices from more than 20 states. More specifically, the bill:

  • Delivers meaningful bill savings to thousands more income-qualified households;
  • Reserves at least 51% of each community solar project for income-qualified residential subscribers, which is a nation-leading requirement and tailored to the Inflation Reduction Act to maximize federal dollars flowing into the state;
  • Enhances subscriber experiences with best-in-class enrollment methods, consumer protections, and consolidated billing;
  • Prioritizes projects sited on preferred locations, like rooftops and brownfields, and drives dual-use practices like agrivolatics; and
  • Improves the methods that third-party stakeholders can develop community solar projects with investor-owned utilities.

Organizations and advocates from across Colorado applaud the bill’s passage, optimistic for the opportunity it presents alongside federal funding opportunities.

Additional Quotes

“SB24-207 represents a significant step towards a more inclusive and sustainable future for Colorado. By prioritizing community solar and implementing measures to reduce barriers for income-qualified individuals, this legislation sets a new standard for equitable energy access. We applaud the legislature for their commitment to bringing communities along in the energy transition,” said Yara Marin, Interior West Regional Director for Vote Solar.

“The Nature Conservancy in Colorado is proud to support ‘Access to Distributed Generation,’ which will accelerate an equitable, conservation-aligned clean energy buildout. By expanding opportunities to deploy projects onto the built environment and ensuring financial cost-savings of new projects flow to low-income Coloradans, this legislation will minimize clean energy infrastructure impacts on natural lands while maximizing benefits for Colorado residents,” said Chris Menges, Director of Climate Action at The Nature Conservancy.

“As a non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith community organization here in Colorado, Together Colorado is proud to be a supporter of SB24-207, the Inclusive Community Solar Bill and are very pleased that it has passed both the Colorado Senate and House and is on its way to Gov Polis for his signature,” said Tom Abood, Leader with Together Colorado’s Climate Justice Committee. “All Coloradans should benefit from clean energy projects that keep our air clean and reduce our utility bills and this bill will help those communities most targeted by polluters and who in the past have not had access to clean, renewable energy. We look forward to the successful implementation of this bill to help all Coloradoans benefit from clean energy and support Colorado to achieve its renewable energy goals. Our collective faith traditions teach us to care for our planet, and care for the most vulnerable among us and SB24-207 does both!”

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