RAPID/Hydropower/Colorado/Power Plant

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Colorado Hydropower Facilility Licensing, Certification, Safety, & Regulation(7-CO)

In Colorado, a hydropower developer may need to submit dam construction plans to the Colorado State Engineer’s Office for safety approval. A developer may also need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for transmission line extension projects, interconnected group net-metered hydroelectric systems, and conduit projects less than five megawatts. A small hydropower developer may qualify for streamlined federal permitting assistance from the Colorado Energy Office.

More Information

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

Colorado Federal

Certificate of Public Good/Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate): “Public utilities” need a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, in order to construct or operate a facility or an extension of a facility. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction over most hydroelectric projects, including primary transmission lines required for the project. However, a developer may need to obtain a CPCN from the Commission for transmission line extension projects, interconnected group net-metered hydroelectric power systems, and conduit projects less than five megawatts. [1]
Certificate Regulatory Agency: Colorado Public Utilities Commission
Certificate Threshold: Any public utilty before constructing or operating a transmission line extension project, interconnected group net-metered hydroelectric power systems, and conduit projects less than five megawatts may need to obtain a CPCN. [2]
Public Utility/Electric Plant definition for Certificate: A public utility'...includes every...electrical corporation...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, and each of the preceding is hereby declared to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission..." In addition "[e]very cooperative electric association, or nonprofit electric corporation or association, and every other supplier of electric energy, whether supplying electric energy for the use of the public or for the use of its own members, is hereby declared to be affected with a public interest and to be a public utility and to be subject to the jurisdiction, control, and regulation of the commission and to the provisions of articles 1 to 7 of this title." [3]
Certificate Exemptions: The utility does not need to apply to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for approval of construction and operation of a facility or an extension of a facility, which is in the ordinary course of business. 4 CCR 723-3-3205(b). The ordinary course of business includes:
  • Facilities generating less than 10MW, and
  • A generating plant remodel, or installation of any equipment, or building space required for pollution control systems.
[1]
Small Hydropower Program: Small, low-impact hydroelectric projects may qualify for the Streamlined Small, Low Impact Hydropower Permitting Program (Program). The Program reduces the time it may take to undergo the state environmental review process, which in turn, may lead to quicker FERC processing of a license or exemption application. [4][5]
Small Hydropower Program Regulatory Agency: Colorado Energy Office
Small Hydropower Definition: To qualify as a “low-impact” project the project must meet the following criteria:
  • Utilize existing infrastructure;
  • No significant changes to current operation of infrastructure;
  • No new stream diversions (this also means the developer cannot draw a larger quantity of water, or more often from existing diversions);
  • Minimal or easily mitigated effects on water quality, fish passage, threatened or endangered species, and cultural or recreational resource;

And meet all requirements for a FERC Conduit Exemption or 10MW Exemption:

Conduit Exemption

  • Built on a conduit or other water infrastructure primarily for non-power purposes;
  • Issued in perpetuity;
  • 15 MW or less for non-municipal projects and 40 MW or less for municipal projects;
  • Power facility located entirely on non-federal lands;
  • Subject to mandatory fish and wildlife conditions (section 30(c) conditions);
  • Categorically exempt from National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) analysis, although Environmental Assessment needed in some circumstances; and
  • Boundary is only around power facility.

10 MW Exemption

  • Built at an existing dam or uses a natural water feature;
  • Issued in perpetuity;
  • 5 MW or less;
  • If the project exists, must add capacity;
  • Subject to mandatory fish and wildlife conditions (section 30(c) conditions);
  • Require National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) analysis
  • Project boundary is same as a licensed project (include dam and reservoir); and
  • The applicant (developer) must possess all real property rights at the time of the filing unless on federal land.
[6][7][8]
Renewable Portfolio Standard Process (RPS): Colorado requires all investor-owned utilities procure 30% of their retail sales from eligible renewable energy resources by 2020.
RPS Eligible: New hydroelectricity with a nameplate capaicty of 10 MW or less and hydroelectricity in existing on January 1, 2005 with a nameplate rating of 30 MW or less. Note: Pumped storage hydro is excluded.
RPS Regulatory Agency: All renewable energy resources located in the region covered by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) that generate RECs used for RPS compliance must register with the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) and record their RECs in WREGIS after August 11, 2010, with the exception of retail renewable distributed generation facilities less than 1 MW.

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List of Reference Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Colorado Code of Regulations 4 CCR 723-3, Rules Regulating Electric Utilities (2007).
  2. Colorado - C.R.S. 40-5-101 et seq., Utilities-New Construction – Extension (1963).
  3. Colorado - C.R.S. 40-1-101 et seq., Definitions (1963).
  4. Colorado - C.R.S. 24-38.5-108, Colorado Energy Office-State Agency Coordination of Review of Federal License and Exemption Applications for Hydroelectric Energy Projects Successfully Streamlining Low-Impact Hydropower Permitting: Colorado’s Model for the Entire Country, at p.1 18 CFR § 4.30(a)(28) 16 USC § 823aHydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013
  5. Colorado Small Hydropower Handbook, at 6

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