Photo by Janie Hernandez
On June 6th, 2013, Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 13-252, making it a day to be celebrated by all who are interested in furthering renewable energy sources in Colorado. As stated in the article by EcoWatch, the new bill will increase “Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard for co-operative associations that provide wholesale electricity in the state, and for large electric associations that provide service to at least 100,000 customers. The bill doubles the amount of renewable energy these utilities must provide to 20 percent (from 10 percent) by 2020, while capping cost increases at two percent.” Bill 252 will not only add renewable energy to the grid, but it will increase the number of jobs and renewable energy projects in rural Colorado, as well as lead to clean, renewable energy investments.
Xcel Energy is also realizing the benefit of investing in renewable energy sources, and not just because of the bill. As of February 2013, Xcel proposed to add 550 Megawatts of wind energy to the grid, primarily because of the cost savings. According to an article in the Denver Post, “Xcel’s average purchase cost for wind since 2007 has been $42.16 a megawatt-hour,” while “the cost of electricity from a new conventional combined-cycle natural-gas plant is about $68.60 a megawatt-hour.” Based on these numbers, Xcel will be saving $26.42 per megawatt-hour by using wind power instead.
Would high levels of renewable energy sources be able to maintain the U.S. electrical grid? Meeting Load with Resource Mix Beyond Business as Usual, a report released in April 2013 by Synapse Energy, answered this question using a model to see how a renewable energy intensive grid would be able to handle future energy load. The study determined that using “a combination of inter-regional transfers, local storage, and demand response would be more than adequate to provide a high level of reliability” for almost all hours of the entire year in ten studied regions.
This report built on the research performed by Synapse in 2011, Toward a Sustainable Future for the U.S. Power Sector: Beyond Business as Usual 2011 (BBAU 2011), “that introduced a ‘Transition Scenario’ in which the United States retires all of its coal plants and a quarter of its nuclear plants by 2050, moving instead toward a power system based on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Synapse’s study showed that this transition scenario, in addition to achieving significant reductions in emissions of CO2 and other pollutants, ultimately costs society less than a “business as usual” strategy—even without considering the cost of carbon. BBAU 2011 projected that, over 40 years, the Transition Scenario would result in savings of $83 billion (present value) compared to the business as usual strategy.”
Most of the data used to create the model came from FERC, NERC, the U.S. EPA, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), GE Energy, and data gathered from BBAU 2011. The model was created to match the mixed energy sources to the energy load at the current hour, instead of having periods of time where energy output was either in surplus or insufficient for demand.
The data was used to determine if electric demands for the years 2030 and 2050 could be met in ten regions in the United States, including the northeast, eastern midwest, western midwest, Rocky Mountains, Texas, California, Arizona/New Mexico, southeast, south central and northwest. Only the northwestern region in the year 2050 showed signs of struggle to meet the energy load. The remaining nine regions showed little or no shortage of energy using Synapse’s model. The figure above models a week in the summer in the Rocky Mountains, where no energy shortage occurred. To see the figures from other regions, view the report.
On Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, the City of Boulder will be holding a public hearing to decide whether to move forward on a municipal utility. The hearing will be held at the Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway Street at 6pm.
Boulder City Council released a report on February 21st, 2013 updating the progress on research devoted to the creation of a municipal electric utility. The report concluded that a shift from a private to a municipal utility company could: lower utility rates (for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors) projected over an estimated 20 year span, maintain levels of system reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent through an increase in renewable energy production (by more than 54 percent).
The public with be given a chance to comment. Please bring your family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues.