Colorado will create a microgrid roadmap and make microgrid grants available for municipal utilities and cooperatives under two bills signed last week by Gov. Jared Polis.
In creating the roadmap, the state is attempting to pinpoint where microgrids are needed on the grid, locating high risk communities and critical facilities or areas where it’s not practical to extend the grid.
But the effort will go beyond a simple mapping of opportunity. The legislation calls for exploring ways to provide financial and technical support for microgrids and for removing barriers to their development, such as rights of way issues and rate structures that have tripped up development in several states.
The legislation also opens the door for investigation into possible statutory or rule changes to help facilitate microgrids.
Work on the map will be undertaken by the state energy office in collaboration with the department of local affairs and the Colorado resiliency office. They will seek input from a range of stakeholders, including microgrid developers, businesses, communities, local governments and labor.
“As this exercise gets underway, it will be particularly important to identify and evaluate the full variety of monetization pathways that can support microgrid development,” said Allie Detrio, senior adviser at the Microgrid Resources Coalition (MRC) and chief strategist at Reimagine Power.
Introduced into the House in February by Rep. Tracey Bernett, the bill requires that a draft of the road map be posted July 1, 2024. A copy of the roadmap must be delivered to the public utilities commission by March 1, 2025. The roadmap will be revisited in January 2030 and every five years thereafter.
The project comes as Colorado, like other Western states, grapples with grid-threatening wildfires.
“With wildfire season looming and reliability issues anticipated throughout the Western US, a robust road map is urgently needed to facilitate rapid microgrid deployment in Colorado,” said Pierson Stoecklein, head of policy at Mainspring Energy and MRC chairman.
Stoecklein said that the effort provides a “valuable example for many states across the country that are increasingly faced with capacity shortfalls and the threat of prolonged grid outages caused by extreme weather events.”
Jeff Morris, senior director of government relations at Schneider Electric, added, “Customers are embracing proven technologies tailored to their needs of resiliency, decarbonization, energy cost control and the quality of electricity they use. Colorado’s microgrid roadmap bill will consolidate the process of removing roadblocks to microgrids and accelerating microgrid deployment in Colorado.”
The second bill signed into law creates a $3.5 million grant program for electric cooperatives and municipal utilities to fund microgrids in rural communities at risk of severe weather or natural disasters that can disrupt power at “anchor institutions.”
The legislation lists schools, libraries, health care and public safety facilities and organizations serving low-income and senior populations as examples of anchor institutions.
The Division of Local Government and the Colorado Energy Office will collaborate on establishing specific grant criteria. Microgrids with lower reliance on fossil fuels will receive priority. The grant program also seeks microgrid projects that promote energy efficiency and demand-side management.
The state will develop the grant application process, and post information and deadlines by Jan. 1, 2023.
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