The bill, known as the "Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act", authorizes any electric utility (utility) to apply to the public utilities commission (PUC) for a financing order that will authorize the utility to issue low-cost Colorado energy impact assistance bonds (bonds) to lower the cost to electric utility customers (ratepayers) when the retirement of an electric generating facility occurs. A utility that issues bonds in conjunction with the retirement of an electric generating facility may apply to the PUC for approval to replace the retired electric generating facility with cost-effective generation resources or energy storage facilities, the granting of which by the PUC is subject to specified requirements and limitations.
A portion of bond proceeds will provide transition assistance for Colorado workers and communities directly affected by the retirement of the facilities (transition assistance). To repay the bonds at the lowest cost to ratepayers, the PUC is authorized to review and approve a financing order and authorize a special energy impact assistance charge that is separate and apart from the utility's base rates on all ratepayer bills. The establishment and ongoing adjustment of the separate charge will allow bonds to achieve the highest possible credit rating, at least AA/Aa2, from the national independent credit rating agencies and will therefore allow bonds to be issued at the lowest possible interest rate and lowest subsequent cost to ratepayers.
Before issuing a financing order, the PUC must hold a public hearing, receive testimony from affected groups, and make specified determinations concerning the necessity, prudence, justness, reasonableness, and quantifiable benefits to utility ratepayers of issuing the financing order. After the public hearing process, if a financing order is approved by the PUC, it must include specific information and instructions for the utility to which it applies relating to the amount of bonds to be issued and the imposition of the energy impact assistance charge and must require the utility to pay 15% of the net present value of the savings to a newly created Colorado energy impact assistance authority (authority) for the payment of transition assistance by the authority and the authority's reasonable and necessary administrative and operating costs. As an alternative to the financing order and bond issuance process, upon the closure of an electric generating facility, a Colorado electric utility may transfer to the authority an amount of up to 15% of the net present value of operational savings created by the closure of the electric generating facility, and such a transfer shall be deemed by the PUC to be a prudent action by the utility.
The bill specifies that the authority is governed by a 7-member board of directors appointed by the governor and specifies mandatory and suggested occupational experience for the directors. The authority is authorized to receive bond proceeds from a utility to which a financing order applies and use the bond proceeds to provide transition assistance and pay its reasonable and necessary administrative and operating costs.
Transition assistance is defined to include payment of retraining costs, including costs of apprenticeship programs and skilled worker retraining programs, for and financial assistance to directly displaced Colorado facility workers, compensation to Colorado local governments for lost property tax revenue directly resulting from the retirement of a facility, and similar payments, job retraining, assistance, and compensation for directly displaced Colorado workers and local governments in areas that produce fuel used in the retired facility directly resulting from the elimination of the need for fuel at the facility. The authority must disburse at least 50% of the transition assistance that it provides directly to Colorado workers; except that, if the local advisory committee established by the authority as required by the bill determines that the disbursement of 50% of all transition assistance directly to Colorado workers would be excessive based on the amount of transition assistance available and the amount of need for such direct assistance and recommends that a lower percentage of all transition assistance be disbursed directly to Colorado workers, the authority may reduce the percentage of all transition assistance disbursed directly to Colorado workers below50% to any percentage not less than 30%. When determining how best to provide transition assistance to a local community, the authority must, in conjunction with each board of county commissioners, municipal governing body, and school district that includes all or a portion of the impacted community, establish and take into consideration the advice of a local advisory committee. The authority is subject to open meeting and open records requirements and is required to submit a report to specified committees of the general assembly that sets forth a complete and detailed financial and operating statement of the authority for any fiscal year for which the authority has provided transition assistance.
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)