Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed seven new clean-energy focused bills into law, with HB-1003, the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, the key piece of legislation that allows consumers the choice of how and by whom their clean energy is generated. Colorado was the first state in the nation to enact community solar legislation in 2011, and this session’s energy legislation cements Colorado’s status as a leader in clean energy, with the community solar industry paving the way.
Colorado has set its energy goals sky high – 100% renewable energy by 2040 – and community solar is the one approach that broadens access to solar energy while preserving customer choice. Approximately 75% of Colorado homes are not suitable for rooftop solar, and that percentage shrinks when assessed for low- to moderate-income households, which makes this new legislation a real victory for underserved populations who cannot or don’t want to put solar panels on their roofs, or make an upfront investment to produce their own clean energy. Community solar provides all households with equal access to renewable energy generation and is the only way that both solar and consumer choice can simultaneously grow without being beholden to monopoly utilities. HB-1003 removes arbitrary restrictions on the size and location of community solar gardens, expanding community solar access to rural counties and improving the economies of scale for constructing a community solar garden.
The popularity of community solar – as evidenced by long waitlists for capacity in existing gardens; by 20 other states adopting community solar legislation; by the increasing pool of bidders to win community solar capacity in Colorado; by more than 500 megawatts of applications in Minnesota, where community solar capacity is uncapped – has even forced Xcel Energy, the largest utility in Colorado and Minnesota, to be the nation’s first major utility to adopt a policy to be 100% carbon-free by 2050.
Community solar is itself grassroots in nature, and the passage of HB-1003 was a true grassroots success story driven by persistent outreach efforts and without lobbying dollars. As a passionate advocate for solar energy, the passing of this legislation was as much a personal crusade for SunShare’s CEO, David Amster-Olszewski, as it was a business and political interest. David played a key role in driving the success of HB-1003, the Community Solar Garden Modernization Act, which will have a direct positive impact on the citizens and communities of Colorado, while helping to build up the state’s solar industry for the long term.
The bill required the organizational finesse and vision of CEO David Amster-Olszewski of SunShare, who convinced all stakeholders – from citizens, to elected representatives, to business interests in other industries – that community solar is the path forward to growth of the solar industry and clean, renewable energy. Amster-Olszewski spearheaded the effort, but also relied on support from leaders at industry groups like the Mike Kruger, CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, and other community solar developers.
David Amster-Olszewski was the champion that Colorado needed to fight against the well-funded lobbying interests of the utility, and prove that clean energy from all sources can work together to move solar and renewable energy forward and enhance the state’s reputation nationally and internationally as being innovative and forward-looking when it comes to the environment. David Amster-Olszewski represents a voice for progress that will be heard from again and again in the future.
“Community solar represents the best new model for consumer participation in renewable energy sweeping the nation, originating first in Colorado a few years ago and followed by over 18 states. Today’s signing of the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, and the expansion of the program, is a huge win for the state of Colorado as well as the states that follow, and represents the vibrance of Colorado’s clean energy economy. By engaging consumers, community solar will be an instrumental part of Colorado's clean energy goals, and re-asserts Colorado as a nationwide leader in renewable energy on its goal to reach 100% renewable by – or before – 2040,” commented David Amster-Olszewski, CEO of SunShare.
Energy bills signed include:
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