By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
A wholesale power provider for 13 Colorado cities and towns generates most of its power from coal - but will that still be true in 2030?
That's one of the key the questions raised in a report published last month by Sustainable Development Strategies Group, "A Renewable Energy Future for Colorado Communities Served by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska."
The report examines the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), which sells wholesale power to dozens of towns and cities in Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, and Colorado. Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG), a non-profit research group based in Gunnison, Colorado, focused on the 13 municipalities in Colorado that buy power from MEAN. The report examines MEAN's power supply mix, policies, and contracts in the context of a transition to renewable energy.
One striking finding in the SDSG report: coal accounted for 61% of MEAN's resource mix in 2017, according to its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). And in contrast to major power suppliers for other Colorado towns and cities like Platte River Power Authority and Xcel Energy, MEAN expects that coal will remain a large portion of its energy mix, and even increase slightly to 64% by 2030.
In an email, a spokesperson for MEAN responded to the report by clarifying that "MEAN is not pursuing additional coal resources. In fact, the IRP’s conclusion – directed by member owners’ input, was to place a priority on future generation resources that incorporate additional renewable energy."
The MEAN spokesperson also said that the SDSG report "doesn’t tell the whole story regarding MEAN’s power resource portfolio," noting that the IRP shows that MEAN's capacity resource mix is expected to decline during the same period.
But the IRP makes clear that MEAN expects that coal will still account for 39% of its capacity resource mix in 2030, down slightly from 42% in 2017. MEAN acknowledges in the IRP that "A large portion of MEAN’s energy is generated by coal resources, in 2017 and in 2030."
MEAN has taken some recent steps to increase its renewable energy portfolio. In 2018, the power provider upgraded its Kimball Wind Project in western Nebraska with larger wind turbines, boosting it from 10.5 megawatts to 30 megawatts.
“As rural communities continue to manage decreasing budgets, projects like the Kimball wind farm can provide a valuable stream of long-term tax revenue to support school and government services,” said Larry Engstrom, chairman of the Kimball County Commissioners.
Nebraska is among the 15 states with the best wind energy resources, which a 2017 Moody's Investors Service report found could generate electricity from new wind power projects at prices well below the average costs of operating coal fired power plants.
Colorado towns and cities also face restrictions on local renewable energy development
Most electric cooperatives in Colorado face limits on local renewable energy development, because of their contracts with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The SDSG report details how the towns and cities that buy power from MEAN also faces limits on local energy projects, following a 2005 decision by MEAN to place a moratorium on new generation.
But MEAN has also made exceptions to that policy - most notably, the city of Aspen is a member of MEAN, but was able to reach its 100% renewable energy goal in part by negotiating with MEAN.
SDSG commended Aspen, and urged the city to share its experience with other MEAN members: "We hope Aspen will share its experience with other towns and cities in the MEAN system. We hope that Aspen will increasingly be a voice of leadership among the Colorado MEAN communities."
Another MEAN member, the city of Wray in eastern Colorado, also generates a portion of its own power needs with a wind turbine owned by the Wray school district. The Wray wind project was developed before the city joined MEAN.
The SDSG report argues that this approach - a moratorium, but with exceptions - leads to uncertainty among municipalities: "In a number of cases, municipal officials expressed uncertainty about what they have to do to obtain an exception or the grounds on which one would be allowed."
Thirteen towns and cities in Colorado buy electricity from MEAN, most in northeastern Colorado: Fort Morgan, Wray, Yuma, Holyoke, Julesburg, Haxtun, and Fleming. The city of Lyons also buys electricity from MEAN, along with 5 municipalities in western Colorado: Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Gunnison, Delta, and Oak Creek.
Sustainable Development Strategies Group: A Renewable Energy Future for Colorado Communities Served by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska
Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska: 2017 Integrated Resource Plan
North American Wind Power: GE-Powered Kimball Wind Project Begins Operations In Nebraska
Colorado towns and cities are helping push utilities to embrace renewable energy
Basin Electric faces growing pressure on coal from co-ops, insurers, and banks
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
United Power and La Plata Electric ask Colorado Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit fee
Colorado Rural Electric Association spent electric cooperatives’ money supporting Republican politicians
Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner questions "whether or not Tri-State has been candid with us"
Rural America could power a renewable economy - but first we need to solve coal debt
Tri-State explores FERC rate regulation to limit state oversight
Poudre Valley Electric sets "80 by 2030" carbon free goal
Guzman Energy proposal would finance retirement of Tri-State coal plants, add 1.2 gigawatts of new wind and solar power
Colorado Public Utilities Commission will oversee Tri-State resource planning
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
Co-ops in Colorado push for change at Tri-State
Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?
Tri-State ad campaign tells co-ops they’re “better together”
La Plata Electric concerned Tri-State debt will lead to higher rates
Colorado Public Utilities Commission asserts jurisdiction over Tri-State
More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals
Ski industry climate change efforts shift to electric utilities and their regulators
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