All posts by Conor May

Xcel Announces Expedited Retirement of All Coal Facilities and Rapid Draw-down of Fracking Operations – Happy April Fools’ Day from Clean Energy Action

In a dramatic reversal, Xcel announced today that it plans to phase out all of its coal generation as quickly as possible. This will involve the retirement of billions of dollars’ worth of coal plants, but Xcel has offered to pay these costs, recognizing that it made some bad investments and it’s their duty to make it right.

The announcement emphasized that renewable generation is simply the cheaper option for rate payers and it avoids the expensive maintenance and fuel costs required to keep coal plants running.

“Wind and solar prices have come down so dramatically that they are a shoo in, they are even cheaper than buying coal for existing power plants,” said one utility. “We plan to transition now and stop throwing good money after bad.”

In addition to the economic benefits of transitioning to new technologies, Xcel has voiced concerns about the state of our climate. They are concerned that rising temperatures, increasing numbers of natural disasters, and frightening rises in sea level are too large a price to pay simply to maintain the status quo.

“I visit Glacier National Park each year with my family, and its striking recession has really opened my eyes to the costs of generating dirty electricity,” a manager admitted. “If the government won’t put a price on carbon, we will take on the responsibility of making responsible decisions ourselves.”

Paradigm Shift Leaves Fracking Behind

Perhaps most remarkable, major utilities are joining together in a pledge to phase out fracking by 2020. At a special meeting of the board of Colorado’s largest utility, resolutions were adopted to sign onto the pledge and start new programs to reduce the need for natural gas for heating homes as well. They plan to create pilot programs that will explore many different solutions, from on-bill financing of home efficiency improvements to replacing fracked gas with methanol from hemp and heating homes with solar energy.

This movement is being driven by concerns about large quantities of fugitive methane leaking from fracking operations, groundwater contamination, and the health of people in surrounding communities.

“The health hazards to communities near fracking operations are simply too serious,” said the president of the board of directors. “We plan to help these communities transition by replacing fracking operations with solar farms that will create jobs.”

For more information, please check the date stamp.

CEA Leads Coloradans in Challenging XCEL

The effort to decarbonize Colorado’s largest electricity supplier, Xcel Energy, advanced in Denver last month as Coloradans lined up to speak at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearing on Xcel’s 2016 Electric Resource Plan. Members of CEA led Coloradans from all walks of life in voicing their concerns about Colorado’s electricity future.

The hearing room at the Public Utilities Commission was overflowing as the people of Colorado addressed the three PUC Commissioners. They expressed a host of concerns about Xcel’s plan,  and asked for more focus on the abundance of cost-effective renewable energy available in Colorado, in accordance with Colorado’s laws and regulations.

The PUC is a part of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, and is responsible for regulating many parts of our state’s utilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

 

Issues raised during the public testimony included the need to:

  • Consider climate change and the urgency of reducing carbon emissions
  • Increase the reliance on renewable energy in order to reduce both emissions and costs
  • Accelerate the adoption of storage technologies to support the integration of higher levels of renewable energy
  • Begin contingency planning in the event of future coal bankruptcies and potential coal supply constraints
  • Allow new, cleaner resources to replace energy generation from older, dirtier, more expensive fossil fuel resources

Citizen witnesses also discussed the need to analyze the choices between renewable energy (with no future fuel costs) and fossil fuel resources (with billions of dollars of future fuel costs) using lower discount rates. A lower discount rate will show increased savings from cost-effective renewable energy because future fuel costs won’t be so heavily discounted.

Discounting the approximately $60 billion in future fuel costs associated with Xcel’s Electric Resource Plan at Xcel’s Weighted Average Cost of Capital (“WACC”) will have the effect of shrinking these future fuel costs and also shrinking the savings that will come from cost-effective renewable energy resources like wind and solar that don’t have future fuel costs.

More details on Xcel’s Electric Resource Plan and the key issues, including the importance of the choice of discount rate, are available in the public comment filing made by Clean Energy Action Board member Leslie Glustrom.

CEA is grateful that the new appointees to the Colorado PUC , Chairperson Jeff Ackerman and Commissioner Wendy Moser, along with Commissioner Frances Koncilja, are dedicated to hearing from the public and that the public is well enough informed to provide useful and compelling testimony!

You can also check out Christi Turner’s comprehensive article in Boulder Weekly and learn more about this important step froward in the fight for cheaper, cleaner power.