Longmont Times Call

Tracey Bernett

The frequency and severity of climate change-related natural disasters is exposing Colorado’s critical facilities and communities to more grid disruption. Everyday events such as lightning strikes, high winds, wildlife interactions, and fallen tree limbs also impact grid reliability across our state.

Now more than ever it is important to improve both grid resilience and grid reliability. This means protecting the ability to keep critical facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, and community centers up and running during natural disasters when utility transmissions lines may be shut down. In addition, there are communities, neighborhoods, businesses, and individual residents in Colorado that do not have consistent and reliable electrical service or who are at high risk for grid disruption.

Typically, individual utilities serving the state are responsible for addressing these challenges, yet vulnerabilities and gaps remain in part because Colorado lacks a comprehensive strategic plan that both identifies and prioritizes these critical facilities and vulnerable communities and makes recommendations on how to improve grid resilience and reliability.

Here at the Capitol, I am proud to work to develop solutions that tackle this problem as part of my plan to help us build a sustainable and resilient future. This session I put forth legislation that directs our state agencies to develop a microgrid roadmap for all of Colorado. A microgrid is typically a set of connected distributed energy resources such as solar panels and batteries that can be connected to the larger electric grid or can function independent of the grid. They can be used to generate electricity to supplement grid resources during normal grid operations. They can also provide independent and/or backup electrical generation when grid resources are not available.

Whereas fossil fuel-based generators have traditionally provided backup electrical power during power outages, microgrids composed of renewable energy generation with battery backup have emerged as cost-effective, clean energy solutions that not only improve grid resilience and reliability but also help temper peak electricity demand. Microgrids can be used to power individual residential homes, commercial buildings, campuses, entire neighborhoods, or even whole communities. HB22-1249 directs the state to develop a consumer centered roadmap that identifies where and how microgrid developments can best serve the people and communities of Colorado. It will provide examples of a variety of microgrids, from small installations serving a single home, to large complex microgrids serving entire communities. As part of this roadmap, the state will lay out the costs, benefits, and other considerations around the development of microgrids.

HB22-1249 pulls together government agencies, communities, grid developers, utilities, labor groups, and others to create a plan to help communities identify what facilities are critical to keep operational in their communities, identify communities that are at greater risk for grid disruption due to natural disasters or lack of access to reliable electricity, and identify where microgrids can improve grid resiliency and reliability. While microgrids are starting to be deployed around the world, many legal, regulatory, and economic barriers continue to slow their development. HB22-1249 will identify those barriers and make recommendations to foster the development and deployment of microgrids.

We want to ensure that especially in communities of interest, who are often left behind in the prosperity of our growth, there is opportunity to benefit from the development of microgrids. Ultimately, we hope that by developing a comprehensive plan we can open the door to saving consumers across the state millions of dollars in avoided downtime costs and providing communities with another tool to fight climate change.

As always, my office is available to answer any questions. I can be reached at 303-866-2920 or tracey.bernett.house@state.co.us. The bill can be found at https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb22-1249.