American Wind Energy Association on Lawsuit Challenging the Colorado Renewable Energy Standard

The lawsuit filed by the American Tradition Institute challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) is a weak and groundless attempt to eliminate a policy that has been good for Colorado’s consumers, its environment, and the state’s economy.

"Wind energy lowers prices in Colorado. It creates manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs. And it offers a cleaner, safer way of making the electricity we all need," said Gene Grace, Senior Counsel for the American Wind Energy Association.

"It has to be distressing to all the Coloradans who have voted for clean energy over the years that all its benefits to Colorado are now coming under attack from an obscure Washington, D.C.-based libertarian lobby group that hasn’t bothered to get its facts straight."

Any legal attempt to eliminate the Colorado RES goes against the will of the people of Colorado, who have repeatedly said "yes" to renewable energy.

Colorado voters first passed the RES in 2004, establishing a requirement that 10 percent of the electricity sold by the state’s two major utilities come from renewable resources by 2015.

In a short time, Coloradans began seeing the benefits of the choice they made—benefits that range from clean, affordable electricity that lowers electric rates, to the clustering of wind industry manufacturing facilities in the state. Xcel, Colorado’s largest utility has repeatedly found wind to benefit consumers by lowering electric costs.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has also found wind farm to be a cost effective generation resource—after public hearings, contested cases, and in public record information. As a result, in 2007 the state legislature raised the Colorado renewables target, with support from the state’s utilities, to 20 percent by 2020, before enthusiastically increasing it again in 2010 to 30 percent.

"As the Colorado Attorney General’s office has already publicly stated, this law is completely defensible; it is constitutional because the state has a legitimate interest in promoting renewable energy generation as an important policy choice with multiple benefits for its residents," Grace said. "The wind turbines industry stands ready to help ensure the will of the people of Colorado is defended—and that will is to have more clean energy."

Aside from the absence of legal grounds for the suit, ATI’s filing reads like a "Greatest Hits" of misinformation about wind energy. Just one example of such inaccuracies: the suit claims that wind energy has caused brownouts in Florida and Texas. Florida has no wind energy in the first place. Texas, as the state with the most wind power in the nation, is occasionally the target of concerted attacks on the clean, renewable resource even though wind continues to provide large amounts of reliable energy there.

Earlier this year, many parts of Texas experienced rolling blackouts. Immediately, before causes could be identified, certain camps jumped to blame wind power. They were wrong. Cold and icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at fossil-fired power plants, taking up to 50 plants (totaling 7,000 MW of capacity) offline. In fact, grid operators confirmed that wind farm energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe.

Such inaccuracies have not fooled Coloradans, who know the truth firsthand: wind energy is a clean, affordable and reliable energy source. Study after study has shown that a national renewable electricity standard would have the effect of lowering electricity prices – both short-term, such as by helping moderate expensive peaks of electric demand, and long-term, by providing a stable, fixed-price hedge against volatile prices of fossil fuels and the costs of the environmental damage they cause.

Other studies have shown that the land-based American wind resource alone could electrify the nation 10 times over. U.S. wind developers are currently installing 100 wind farms a year, and they’re ahead of schedule to produce 20% of America’s electricity by 2030 as the Bush Administration’s Department of Energy said was possible.

"And as Coloradans know, wind power is an engine for sustainable economic development," Grace said. "Renewable energy is good for America, it’s good for Colorado, and we are confident this unsupported lawsuit will fail."