By Joe Smyth | email@example.com | @joesmyth
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan yesterday, greenlighting the plan to close two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo Colorado, and replace that power with a mix of new renewable energy and battery storage projects along with existing natural gas plants.
Xcel Energy’s plan attracted national attention this year due to the proposals for large scale battery storage projects and unprecedented bids for cheap new wind and solar energy. In Colorado, the plan attracted support from labor, business, environmental, and community organizations, thanks to its expected economic and health benefits.
A report this week from the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that closing the two coal units would reduce air pollutants in Pueblo and Colorado, leading to fewer asthma attacks, emergency rooms visits, and other health problems. A June report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the plan would create hundreds of new jobs, boost local tax revenue, and provide a net positive economic impact to the state - mostly by avoiding nearly $1 billion in coal purchases from Wyoming.
Rural Colorado counties have recently attracted new jobs from renewable energy projects, and Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Colorado Energy Plan will lead to another $2.5 billion investment and further expansion of those industries, particularly in Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Weld, Baca, and Pueblo counties.
Commissioners from several counties in Colorado’s Eastern Plains wrote to the Public Utilities Commission to highlight the economic benefits of the Colorado Energy Plan in the region:
The corollary economic impact on Colorado’s rural counties cannot be understated. Rural Colorado is proud to be a leader in renewable energy production, delivering reliable energy resources that support competitive energy rates across the state. The increase in renewable energy projects in rural communities has had a significant positive impact on our local economies. These economic benefits extend well beyond the short-term construction phase. The long-term assets proposed for construction increase the local tax base which helps fund local services, public safety, schools, and libraries. The projects provide desirable and high paying jobs that keeps local workers in our communities and drive new vocational training at local community colleges. For projects on private land, local land owners receive stable long-term lease payments that reduce reliance on erratic commodity prices.
Other utilities in the Rocky Mountain region could also reduce costs by replacing coal plants with a mix of new renewable energy projects and market purchases. A report from Rocky Mountain Institute last week found that Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association could save its 43 member cooperatives over $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy, and the Denver Post reported that “Tri-State officials planned to meet in Denver on Thursday to discuss boosting the use of renewable energy sources.”
A report from Energy Strategies also found that Pacificorp could reduce costs for its customers by closing higher cost coal units, including the Craig and Hayden coal plants in Colorado, in favor of new wind energy projects. Other utilities in Colorado like Platte River Power Authority and Black Hills Energy are also planning new wind energy projects as a way to reduce costs.
And Xcel Energy itself could pursue a broader transition away from coal - Executive Vice President David Eves said at a conference this year that the Pueblo coal units "will not be the last coal plant we retire early."
More reactions to the Public Utilities Commission approval of the Colorado Energy Plan
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:
Western Resources Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois:
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.
Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Mary Anne Hitt:
Despite the bluster coming from the Trump Administration, America is rapidly moving away from dirty, expensive coal plants and toward cleaner, cheaper energy resources like solar and wind. American communities want strong leadership from the private and public sectors that saves money, protects our air and water from fossil fuel pollution, and provides real solutions to tackle the climate crisis. This state and local leadership, compounded with historically low prices for renewable energy and battery storage, is supercharging the adoption of clean energy as the primary source of electricity for communities across the country, making dirty, expensive coal plants obsolete. Colorado is showing the nation that moving beyond coal to clean energy is good for our economy, our health, and our families, and we are confident that the list of states making that transition will continue to grow.
Tri-State: Moving a cooperative power provider from coal to clean energy
Tri-State will replace coal plants with a gigawatt of new wind and solar
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Colorado communities and state Energy Office urge Public Utilities Commission oversight of Tri-State
Reports examine the impacts of Tri-State's high wholesale power costs
Tri-State executive involved with anti-Clean Air Act group since 2005
US Congressional Committee requests details of Tri-State funding to anti-Clean Air Act group
Renewable energy projects stalled in 2018 among Tri-State member co-ops
Second co-op asks Tri-State to pull “Better Together” ads
Tri-State won’t allow co-op members to attend annual meeting
Tri-State expects member co-ops to support bylaw changes at annual meeting
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union calls on Tri-State to adopt flexible contracts and more clean energy
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Tri-State ad campaign tells co-ops they’re “better together”
La Plata Electric concerned Tri-State debt will lead to higher rates
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More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals
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Public Utilities Commission rejects Tri-State motion to exclude Colorado Energy Office from exit charge case
Tri-State claims that co-ops "have intervened on Tri-State's behalf at the PUC” don’t add up
Colorado state legislators urge Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit charge
United Power says Tri-State policies are turning away large customers
Next PUC Commissioner John Gavan "consensus choice" of Governors Hickenlooper and Polis
Tri-State policy change discourages battery projects in rural Colorado and New Mexico
Colorado Public Utilities Commission orders Tri-State to "satisfy or answer" exit charge complaint from Delta Montrose Electric
United Power seeks solutions to "increasingly outmoded G&T business models"
Clean Energy Means Business Summit highlights renewable energy opportunities and challenges in rural Colorado
Governor-elect Jared Polis says moving Colorado toward more renewable energy will be a top priority
Electric cooperative officials discuss cheap renewable energy and an “eroding monopoly”
Delta Montrose Electric members vote for new financing options, supporting a potential buyout of Tri-State contract
Poudre Valley Electric requests Tri-State policy changes and fuel mix study
Holy Cross Energy plans to shift away from coal, aiming for 70% renewable energy
What do corporate renewable energy commitments mean for electric utilities?
Colorado Energy Plan approval will mean new renewable energy investments in rural Colorado
Report: Tri-State could save $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy
Delta Montrose Electric seeks new financing options to end contract with Tri-State
Wind energy jobs in rural Colorado attract bipartisan support
Colorado Energy Plan analysis shows switching from coal to renewable energy will boost jobs and local tax revenue
Poudre Valley Electric and Xcel Energy Colorado President win national awards from Smart Electric Power Alliance
Latest coal plant subsidy proposal could hit electricity bills in the West
Moody’s report: “High quality renewable resources” could help Tri-State and Basin Electric navigate rising carbon transition risks
Senator Heinrich highlights “frustrations in New Mexico” with Tri-State’s limits on local solar
Moody’s report shows Tri-State’s coal plants are more expensive than new renewable energy
Tri-State’s limits on local energy development are a growing problem for co-op members
Governor Hickenlooper discusses Tri-State at the Climate Leadership Conference
Bids for Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan include a proposal for the world’s largest battery
New wind and solar power in Colorado is now cheaper than existing coal plants
Companies' 100% renewable energy goals are getting results in Colorado
What does cheap solar mean for electric cooperatives?
Colorado towns and cities are helping push utilities to embrace renewable energy
How are electric cooperatives navigating the transition from coal to cheap clean energy?
Blocked from building more solar projects, United Power shifts to community batteries
Economic reality sets in for Tri-State efforts to expand the Holcomb coal plant
Solar projects in the works in Grand and Jackson counties
Mountain Parks Electric grapples with solar