While not getting nearly as much coverage and analysis as the presidential and senatorial races, a number of key renewable energy issues hit ballots yesterday across the country. And while not all the counts have been finalized, the results of these critical initiatives are becoming clearer by the hour.
A decade-long effort by the city of Boulder to separate from utility Xcel Energy and form a municipal utility within the city appears to be coming to an end — in the form of Measure 2C, which would enter the city into a new, 20-year franchise with Xcel Energy and ending the city’s efforts to create a local, city-run electric utility for good.
The measure is currently on pace to pass, with 23,834 votes in favor versus 20,677 votes against, with roughly 61% of votes counted. Opponents of the measure are worried that entering into a new franchise will significantly hamper the city’s transition to renewable energy.
In Denver, voters are on track to pass measure 2A, an initiative that would raise the city sales taxes by 0.25%, to 8.81%, in order to clean up the city’s climate footprint. The tax is expected to raise $36 million annually, with these funds being put towards job creation in renewable energy and clean energy technologies, management of natural resources and the development of new solar, battery storage and other renewable energy projects. The funds would also be directed to immediately benefit communities of color. As of late Tuesday night, the initiative had earned about 64% of the vote.
In Shakopee, voters appear to have defeated a ballot measure that would have dissolved the Shakopee Public Utilities Commission (SPUC), the city’s municipal electric and water utility. The initiative was initially introduced after the state auditor’s office found that former SPUC Manager, John Crooks – apparently aptly named – was earning more than the state salary cap allows. It appears that SPUC will survive, however, with 41.34% of voters (8,312 individuals) casting ballots in favor of dissolving the utility, and 58.66% of voters not in favor (11,794 individuals).
The fight to raise Nevada’s regional portfolio standard (RPS) to 50% renewable energy by 2030 looks to be a success, as the state’s voters appear to have approved Question 6 on the ballot. As of early this morning, votes in favor lead at 56% (623,014 votes) to 44% (482,347) votes. If the vote passes, the two-year long process of raising the state’s RPS will be complete. The initiative initially passed in 2018, but, in Nevada, before a ballot initiative become law, it must garner a passing vote in two consecutive, even-numbered-year election cycles.
Between the two election cycles, Nevada Senator Chris Brooks introduced Senate Bill 358, a bill which also looked to raise the RPS to 50% by 2030.
The city of Columbus has set a course to being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2023, with the all but confirmed passing of Issue 1. Specifically, Issue 1 looks to give the city: “The authority to aggregate the retail electric loads located within the incorporated areas of the City, to support local clean energy generation, energy savings, and Columbus’s sustainable economy and for that purpose, enter into services agreements to facilitate for those loads the sale and purchase of electricity, such aggregation to occur automatically except where any person elects to opt-out.”
Basically, the city will work with utility AEP Energy to be supplied electricity only from renewable projects, with individual customers being free to opt-out, if they so choose. As of midday, more than 340,000 votes were in and the measure was passing overwhelmingly, 76% to 24%.
This last news didn’t come as part of a ballot initiative and was not voted upon by the populous, but it is important nonetheless. WEC Energy Group, a major utility in Wisconsin, announced on the company’s Q3 earnings call Tuesday plans to retire 1,400 MW of coal by 2025. Alongside this major retirement, the utility will be adding 800 MW of solar, 600 MW of battery storage and 100 MW of wind. This is a huge development for the state, as Wisconsin currently has just 216 MW of solar capacity to its name.
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