Published: 08 October 2011 10:43 PM

Colton city officials are warning that state-imposed renewable energy requirements could force the city to raise rates paid by the city’s 18,000 electric utility customers.

State law requires city-owned utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2014 and 33 percent by 2020, Public Works and Utility Services Director Amer Jakher told the City Council Tuesday night.

Converting Colton’s natural gas-fired Agua Mansa power plant to use biogas in order to meet the 2020 requirement would triple the city’s cost of generating electricity, City Manager Rod Foster said.

The warning comes less than six months after the council voted to roll back electric rates for as much as 95 percent of its customers, who balked at a 17 percent rate hike enacted two years ago.

The alarm about utility costs came from an unexpected source, Mayor Sarah Zamora. She replaced her husband, who campaigned for mayor last year on a platform calling for reduced utility rates and died in July, seven months after taking office and three months before winning the 10 percent rollback.

“My husband, when he was mayor, felt that the rate was too high,” Sarah Zamora said at Tuesday’s meeting, “and I’m glad he did what he did because he did help the citizens and a lot of businesses get a little bit of relief.”

She said she learned about challenges facing the utility while attending a recent industry conference.

“Colton is not unique with our utility rates,” she said. “It’s just that we are at a disadvantage because we never increased the rates the way we were supposed to be doing for the last 10, 15, 20 years.”

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