Colorado Bulk Transmission Transmission & Interconnection(8-CO)
The electrical grid in Colorado is part of the Western Interconnection power grid, which covers most of the western United States. The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) is the Regional Entity responsible for coordinating and promoting Bulk Electric System reliability in the Western Interconnection, including in Colorado. In addition, WECC provides an environment for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its members as set forth in the WECC Bylaws.
The Colorado Coordinated Planning Group (CCPG) is a joint, high voltage transmission system planning forum. The CCPG provides the technical forum required to complete reliability assessments, develop joint business opportunities and accomplish coordinated planning under the single-system planning concept in the Rocky Mountain Region of the WestConnect Transmission Planning area.
In addition, some transmission owners in Colorado are part of the Northern Tier Transmission Group (NTTG). The NTTG is a group of transmission providers and customers that are actively involved in the sale and purchase of transmission capacity of the power grid that delivers electricity to customers in the Northwest and Mountain States. Transmission owners serving this territory work in conjunction with state governments, customers, and other stakeholders to improve the operations of and chart the future for the grid that links all of these service territories.
Public Service Company of Colorado is the largest transmission owner and operator in Colorado and the second largest is Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a wholesale power supplier owned by 44 electric cooperatives. Additionally, the Western Area Power Administration markets and delivers hydroelectric power within a 15-state region of the central and western United States, including Colorado (Colorado Energy Office).
Colorado Energy Office
The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) resides in the Office of the Governor, and is charged by the Colorado Legislature with sustaining Colorado’s energy economy and promote all Colorado energy, promoting economic development through energy-market advances that create jobs, encourage a cleaner and balanced energy portfolio, promote energy efficiency, increase energy security, lower long-term consumer costs, and protect the environment.
Representatives of the CEO are involved in transmission round-tables and policy groups, but the CEO’s role is informational in nature, and the CEO does not have (and has not historically taken) a direct role in the siting process. The CEO has identified the energy permitting process as an area of focus for reaching these goals, and offers to educate and provide facilitating services to any company interested in developing an energy project in Colorado. The CEO aims to help companies understand timelines and information required for permitting, serve as a liaison to the appropriate contacts in permitting jurisdictions, and facilitate resolutions in which the permitting process may not fit a proposed project (Colorado Energy Office).
The CEO has undertaken several studies regarding transmission development in Colorado related to delivering renewable energy. The REDI Report (Renewable Energy Development Infrastructure) concentrates on the role of utility-scale renewable energy and high-voltage transmission in achieving the 20x20 goal. The 20x20 aims to achieve a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Colorado’s electricity sector below 2005 levels by 2020.
The STAR Report (Strategic Transmission and Renewables) provides a detailed analysis of ways in which Colorado’s utilities can plan for both demand side and supply side resources and the transmission infrastructure necessary to deliver reliable electric power to a growing state.
Colorado does not have a state-administered siting act for high-voltage transmission lines. The role of the state in permitting high-voltage transmission lines is limited to 1) issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), typically prior to the siting and permitting processes, and 2) reviewing and resolving siting cases if a utility appeals local government decisions. A CPCN is a written application that is submitted to the CPUC, that provides details about the proposed project includes background information, purpose and need statement, system planning information, and possible impacts from the proposed project. The contents of the CPCN are described in more detail below.
Colorado laws and CPUC rules require that an electric utility seeking to construct and operate a transmission line must first obtain a CPCN, unless the UPUC determines that construction of the transmission line is in the ordinary course of business in which case the CPCN would not be required. The ordinary course of business means the usual transactions, customs and practices of a certain business and of a certain firm. The local government-administered siting process begins after a CPCN is issued.
Utilities may appeal any decision made by a local government authority that has the effect or result of denying a permit or application for a major electrical facility. This also includes decisions that imposes requirements or conditions upon such permit or application that will unreasonably impair the ability of the utility to provide safe, reliable, and economical service to the public. To appeal a local government action, one of the following conditions must be met:
- The utility has applied for or has obtained a CPCN from the CPUC to construct the major electrical facility that is the subject of the local government action
- A CPCN is not required for the utility to construct the major electrical facility that is the subject of the local government action
- The PUC has previously entered an order that conflicts with the local government action.
CPUC Rule 3703 outlines specific information required in an appeal application to the PUC including:
- Background information.
- A statement of reasons the utility believes the local government action would unreasonably impair its ability to provide safe, reliable, and economical service to the public.
- The demonstrated need for the proposed project.
- The extent to which the proposed project is inconsistent with applicable local or regional land use ordinances, resolutions, or master or comprehensive plans.
- Systems planning and engineering information.
- The merit of any reasonably available and economically feasible alternatives proposed by the utility or the local government.
- The impact that the local government action would have on customers of the utility who reside within and without the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the local government.
- The basis for the local government action (including a copy of the action if available).
- The impact the proposed project would have on residents within the local government’s jurisdiction, including whether residents have already paid to place such facilities underground. If the residents have already paid to place the proposed facilities underground, the PUC will give strong consideration to that fact.
- Information about public safety.
- An attestation that the utility will send a copy of the application to the local government body that took the action and that is the subject of the appeal application at the same time the appeal application is filed.
The Commission will hold a pre-hearing conference within 15 days after the appeal application is complete. The pre-hearing conference must include the local government and PUC representatives.
The Commission will deny an appeal if the utility has failed to comply with the following notification and consultation requirements:
- A utility shall notify the affected local government of its plans to site a major electrical facility within its jurisdiction prior to submitting the preliminary or final permit application, but in no event later than filing a request for a CPCN, or the filing of any annual filing with the PUC that proposes or recognizes the need for a new major electrical facility or an extension of an existing facility. If the utility is not required to obtain a CPCN, or to file annually with the PUC of the proposed construction of major electrical facilities, the utility must notify any affected local government of its intention to site a new facility or expand an existing facility when such utility determines that it intends to proceed to permit and construct that facility.
- Following notification, the utility must consult with the local governments to identify potential sites or routes for the proposed facility and to attempt to resolve any land use issues. The utility must identify a preferred alternative within its permit application, and consider and present reasonable siting and design alternative to the local government or explain why no reasonable alternatives are available.
Under state law, Colorado counties and municipalities are given broad authority to plan for and regulate the use of land within their jurisdictions. State statutes give local governments (counties and municipalities) the authorization to;
- Appoint planning commissions which are required to prepare and adopt master plans or comprehensive plans for physical development within their jurisdictions. These regulations apply unless the county population is less than 15,000 people. In these cases, the board of county commissioners acts as the planning commission or may appoint a separate body to do so. Master plan or comprehensive plans may contain information relevant to the siting of high-voltage transmission lines.
- Establish zoning districts for land use regulation. Local government zoning codes may contain information relevant to the siting of high-voltage transmission lines.
- Adopt subdivision regulations. Subdivision regulations are required of counties  and are optional for municipalities.  Subdivision regulations may contain information relevant to the siting of high-voltage transmission lines.
- Regulate matters of statewide interest.
In 1974, HB 1041 was enacted which allows local governments to voluntarily adopt regulations to identify, designate, and regulate through permitting “areas and activities of state interest” which are defined by the statute. Route selection and construction of major facilities of a public utility are considered an activity of state interest. “Major facilities of a public utility” is defined in the statute to include transmission lines, power plans, and substations of electrical utilities , but the definition of “transmission lines” by voltage may vary by local government.
Many, but not all , local governments in Colorado have adopted such “1041 regulations” and require “1041 permits” or “Areas and Activities of State Interest” permits for required activities. Some counties require a 1041 permit in addition to another permit, such as a Special Use or Conditional Use permit. Local governments that have not adopted 1041 regulations have various land use permitting requirements for transmission lines that include Conditional Use Permits, Special Use Permits, or other land use permits.
Specific requirements of local government 1041 regulations vary, but 1041 permitting processes are governed by time limits identified in state law. Local governments must make final decisions within 120 days of the utility's submission of a preliminary application (if required), or within 90 days after submission of a final application. The time periods begin when the application deemed complete according to the rules of the local government. If an application is deemed incomplete, the local government must notify the applicant of the information required to complete the application within 28 days of the application submittal. If the local government does not take final action within the applicable time frames, the application shall be deemed approved.  Links to examples of local government 1041 regulations are provided on the website of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply
Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.
Permitting at a Glance
|State or Preemptive Authority:||Transmission permitting involves both state and local governments. However, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission may preempt local government decisions if certain conditions are met. C.R.S. 29-20-108.|
|Transmission Siting Agency:||Local governments, Colorado Public Utilities Commission (during appeals)|
|Transmission Siting Process:||Varies by local government, but developers are required to notify all local governments of plans to site a transmission facility within the jurisdiction of the local government. This notice must take place before the developer files a request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. After notifying the affected local governments, the developer must consult with the affected local governments to identify routes and locations considered for the siting of the transmission facility. C.R.S. 29-20-108(4)(a).|
|Transmission Siting Threshold:||Varies by local government.|
|Siting Act:||Colorado does not have an explicit siting act.|
|Regulated Entity Definition:||“Public utility” is defined, in part, as “…every…electrical corporation…person or municipality operating for the purpose of supplying the public for domestic, mechanical or public uses, and every corporation or person declared by law to be affected with a public interest…” CRS 40-1-103(1)(a)(I). The law defines “person” as “any individual, firm, partnership, corporation, company, association, joint stock association, and other legal entity.” CR.S 40-1-102(10).|
|Public Utility Regulatory Authority Certification Transmission Threshold:||Public utilities and certain cooperative electrical associations must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for new construction and extension of transmission facilities that are 120 kV or more. 4 CCR 723-3-3206, Construction or Extension of Transmission Facilities.|
|Permit Processing Timeframe:||The Colorado Public Utilities Commission must issue a decision on the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity within 60 days from accepting a complete application. Local governments must make a final decision regarding transmission siting within 120 days of the utility's submission of a preliminary application, or within 90 days after submission of a final application.|
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List of Reference Sources
- Colorado - C.R.S. 24-38.5-101 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 40-5-101 (2014).
- Colorado - 4 C.C.R. 723-3 (2014). 3102 Section (a)
- Colorado - C.R.S. 29-20-108 (2014). Section(5)(a)
- Colorado - 4 C.C.R. 723-3 (2014). 3700-3707
- Colorado - C.R.S. 29-20-104 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 30-28-103 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 31-23-202 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 30-28-106 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 30-28-111 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 31-23-301 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 30-28-133 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 31-23-214 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 24-65.1-101 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 24-65.1-203 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 24-65.1-104 (2014).
- Colorado - C.R.S. 24-65.1 (2014).