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Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan OK’d by PUC as conservation groups celebrate

August 27, 2018, 4:29 pm
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One of Colorado’s leading conservation groups lauded the approval Monday by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission of Xcel Energy’s ambitious Colorado Energy Plan, which will shut down two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo and dramatically increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio in the form of wind, solar and battery storage.

At a time when the federal government is moving away from policies that promote renewable energy, instead seeking to bolster the coal industry and other forms of fossil-fuel production, the state’s public utilities commission and Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan are taking the state in a different direction.

According to officials in attendance, the PUC deliberated from the bench on Monday, and a written order is expected the  first week of September. The PUC approved the preferred Colorado Energy Plan Portfolio (CEPP) for Xcel Energy in Colorado, as part of deliberations on Phase II of Xcel’s 2016 Electric Resource Plan.

The preferred plan envisions investing $2.5 billion in eight Colorado counties to add more than 1,100 megawatts (MW) of wind generation, 700 MW of large-scale solar generation and 275 MW of large-scale battery storage. The plan also would add more than 380 MW of existing natural gas generation to provide reliability support to the expanded renewables.

“The Colorado Energy Plan Portfolio is a transformative plan that delivers on our vision of long-term, low-cost clean renewable energy for our customers, stimulating economic development in rural Colorado, and substantially reducing our carbon emissions,” Xcel Energy—Colorado President Alice K. Jackson said in a prepared statement.

“We value the partnership with our stakeholders who supported this plan and its approval,” Jackson added. “We also recognize the diligent work of the commission throughout the process and appreciate the decision reached today. We are excited to move forward. In addition, the decision supports our recently proposed, long-term electricity contract and solar project with EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel. The agreement will allow the steel mill to remain competitive and expand operations in Pueblo, without price impacts to customers throughout the state.”

While conservation groups lauded the plan, fossil-fueled-backed groups opposing the plan fired back a day later (see Heartland Institute statement later in this post).

Western Resource Advocates, a leading Colorado conservation group that has led that charge on the Colorado Energy Plan, issued this press release on Monday:

Western Resource Advocates Celebrates Approval of Groundbreaking Colorado Energy Plan

 (August 27, 2018) — Today, Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois commended Xcel Energy and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on the approval of Xcel’s plan to retire two aging coal-fired power plants in Pueblo. Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan will dramatically cut carbon pollution, create hundreds of jobs, and will lead to the investment of over $2 billion in Colorado’s rural economy, including wind, solar and the nation’s largest utility battery storage project.

Western Resource Advocates led the advocacy for the transition, encouraging Xcel Energy to present the plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, spearheading a coalition of like-minded groups, and helping make the case for final approval.

Goldin-Dubois issued the following statement:

“All Coloradans deserve access to affordable clean energy, and the Colorado Energy Plan is the perfect example of how investing in clean energy protects our health and our environment and at the same time, strengthens our economy. The plan is a huge milestone in Colorado’s transition to clean energy that will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas pollution, save customers money, create jobs, and drive $2.5 billion of investment in the economic future of eight mostly rural Colorado counties.

“Colorado’s bold decision to invest in clean energy and a healthier future for the next generation shows what the public – and the marketplace – already know, that conservation and clean energy go hand in hand with a growing, healthy economy.”

The plan to move away from expensive, polluting coal power has tremendous benefits for Coloradans:

  • Fighting climate change: The Colorado Energy Plan will avoid 4 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year. Xcel’s emissions of carbon dioxide pollution will be 60 percent lower in 2026 than in 2005.
  • Cleaner air for Coloradans: The Colorado Energy Plan will reduce SO2 and NOx pollution by about 90 percent by 2026. There will also be reductions in other harmful pollutants, including mercury and particulate matter (dust).
  • Lower costs: Colorado consumers will save over $200 million on their energy bills over the next 20 years.
  • Economic investments: The Colorado Energy Plan will create 500 jobs in the first five years, generating an additional $44 million in local gross domestic product during the same time, and an average of $10 million from 2018 to 2040.
  • Investment in Pueblo County: The plan calls for 525 MW of new solar projects with 225 MW of battery storage, as well as a new transmission switching station all within Pueblo County, which has served as the host community for the Comanche coal units since the 1970s. Taken together, these investments will create a net benefit for the county’s tax base and help to position Pueblo County as an emerging renewable energy hub for the state and the region.

“We commend Xcel Energy’s leadership and willingness to invest in clean energy. We also note the important contributions from our partners in the conservation community, consumer advocates, and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and their staff, which thoroughly vetted and examined this plan and a variety of alternatives. This decision shows that it is possible to dramatically and quickly reduce carbon emissions in the West, and today, Colorado has taken a strong step toward that goal.”

On Tuesday, the Heartland Institute, a free-market, libertarian nonprofit backed in the past by the Koch brothers and seeking to sway public education on climate change, issued this press release:

Heartland Institute Comments on CO PUC Shutting Down Two Coal Power Plants

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced Monday it will approve Xcel Energy’s plan to shut down two perfectly operating coal power plants that are equipped with advanced environmental technologies. The Xcel plan is to spend $2.5 billion building new facilities— primarily wind and solar— to replace the coal plants. Xcel stands to reap up to $150 million in additional profits under its plan.

The following statement from James Taylor, senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute —a national free-market think tank— may be used for attribution:

“The Xcel plan will raise Colorado electricity prices while providing few if any environmental benefits. Xcel’s plan has little to do with the environment and is all about finding ways to generate new profits from Colorado ratepayers. The Centennial State is meeting its renewable power mandates, derives more of its electricity from wind and solar than almost every other state, and saddles its residents with some of the highest electricity prices in the region.”

“Colorado electricity consumers now face the certainty of $2.5 billion of unnecessary spending on replacement power facilities with no guarantee that consumers will ever recoup the costs. Xcel’s massive lobbying efforts and cozy relationship with the PUC has paid off big-time.”

“Unfortunately, politicians are misleading the public about the enormous costs of imposing expensive renewable power on Colorado households. When Colorado lawmakers hiked renewable power mandates in 2010 and 2013, politicians claimed the mandates would lower electricity bills. Not surprisingly, given the high costs of generating wind and solar power, Colorado electricity prices have risen 20 percent since 2010. This Xcel plan, and any additional renewable power schemes imposed by politicians or the PUC, will only impoverish Colorado taxpayers.”

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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