Already a pioneer in the field of renewable-energy policy, Colorado has taken another bold step by raising the bar for utilities and the power they provide.

In March, Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation that will require 30 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable power by 2020. The new threshold gives Colorado the distinction of having the highest portfolio standard of any state in the Rocky Mountain West and one of the highest in the nation.

It should come as no surprise. In 2004, voters approved a referendum calling for 10 percent renewable power by 2015, the first of its kind in the United States. Three years later, the governor and legislators increased the requirement to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. The new law increases that threshold by another 50 percent.

The standard is graduated. It requires utilities to supply at least 12 percent of their retail electric sales from renewable sources by 2011, 20 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2020. The requirements apply to all providers of retail electric service in the state, with the exception of municipal utilities serving 40,000 customers or fewer.

The new standard also casts a wide net. As with the previous law, the new law credits electricity produced from solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass power (including power generated from nontoxic plants, animal wastes, and methane from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities), small hydropower, “recycled” electricity from waste heat, and fuel cells powered with hydrogen derived from eligible renewable-energy resources.

It also has an eye for locally generated power and jobs. In-state power facilities receive extra credit toward the requirements. The new law also encourages distributed generation. It requires investor-owned utilities to draw on distributed generation for at least 1 percent of their retail electric sales in 2011 and 2012 and 3 percent by 2020.

This translates to a greater reliance on local, customer-owned, solar photovoltaic generation systems. It will eliminate the need to construct expensive transmission lines to transport the power, and it will foster job growth in the state’s solar- power industry.