Category Archives: Economics

We Are Your Eyes on Xcel

Update 9/16: SAVE THE DATE 11-20-14! The Public Utilities Commission (“COPUC”) has set a public hearing for November 20, 2014. Clean Energy Action will be training folks on how to engage prior to that date.

Update 8/28: Clean Energy Action has been granted permissive intervention! We are the only party to have ever been granted intervention status with an express position of moving toward a zero carbon economy. As a party to this proceeding, we will now be able to develop a Statement of Position preceded by filing Discovery Questions, Answer Testimony and informing the public about the intricacies of the proceeding. Stay Tuned here for further updates.

Update 8/5: Clean Energy Action has filed a Motion Requesting Permissive Intervention in the rate case. We expressed our reasons for filing as mitigating climate change and rapidly moving to a zero carbon economy.

Update 7/9: Public Utilities Commission staff filed a request for a hearing on June 26th. The Commissioners granted that request today. Any petitions to intervene must be submitted by August 11th.  The hearing is set for December 2nd through December 5th, with a final ruling expected by February 13th, 2015.

On June 17th, Xcel Energy submitted a request to the Public Utilities Commission asking for a rate increase of $157 million annual increase. That could mean a 5.3% monthly increase for the average consumer.

Unlike almost everybody on earth, we are keeping an eye on Xcel and the PUC.  Xcel’s testimony alone is over 2,241 pages.  Believe it or not, those 2,241 pages are just the tip of the iceberg. Clean Energy Action is digging deeper to uncover the implications that this rate case could have on the deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

We need your support to keep doing this work.

If Xcel wins, this would add $3.96 to every customer’s bill every month. Instead of paying that to Xcel, consider a monthly recurring donation to help us move them into the utility model of the 21st century.

Xcel is proposing some significant changes to their rate structure, including a proposal for decoupling, large capital investments from the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, and restructuring the depreciation of their fossil fuel assets.

We cannot change the conversation about the future without your support.

 

Steeply Dipping Coal in the Powder River Basin

Geology and Markets, not EPA, Waging War on Coal

With the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules limiting carbon pollution from the nation’s electricity sector, you’ve no doubt been hearing a lot of industry outrage about “Obama’s War on Coal.”

Don’t believe it.

Despite the passionate rhetoric from both sides of the climate divide, the proposed rules are very moderate — almost remedial.  The rules grade the states on a curve, giving each a tailored emissions target meant to be attainable without undue hardship.  For states that have already taken action to curb greenhouse gasses, and have more reductions in the works, they will be easy to meet.  California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, are all several steps ahead of the proposed federal requirements — former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter told Colorado Public Radio that he expects the state to meet the proposed federal emissions target for 2030 in 2020, a decade ahead of schedule.  This isn’t to say that Colorado has particularly clean power — our state has the 10th most carbon intensive electricity in the country, with about 63% of it coming from coal — but we’ve at least started the work of transitioning.

Furthermore, many heavily coal dependent states that have so far chosen to ignore the imperatives of climate change (e.g. Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky) must only attain single-digit percentage reductions, and would be permitted to remain largely coal dependent all the way up to 2030.  Roger Pielke Jr. and others have pointed out that in isolation, the new rules would be expected to reduce the amount of coal we burn by only about 15%, relative to 2012 by 2020.  By 2030, we might see an 18% reduction in coal use compared to 2012.  Especially when you compare these numbers to the 25% reduction in coal use that took place between 2005 and 2012, and the far more aggressive climate goals that even Republicans were advocating for just two presidential elections ago, it becomes hard to paint the regulations as extreme.  Instead, they look more like a binding codification of plans that already exist on the ground, and a gentle kick in the pants for regulatory laggards to get on board with at least a very basic level of emissions mitigation.

So, in isolation, there’s a limited amount to get either excited or angry about here.  Thankfully, the EPA’s rules will not be operating in isolation!

Continue reading

Citizen Power Training with special guest Great March for Climate Action

 Take action to fix the deficient energy market.

Tuesday June 17th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Central Presbyterian Church
1660 Sherman St., Denver, CO 80203

Register Here

community training picture

How do community members change energy policies in our state? What can we learn from the Great March for Climate Action? How can we use our solidarity to move state legislators in the fight for sustainability?

Clean Energy Action is bringing together Denver community members, students and the Great March for Climate Change Action to use our momentum for climate action to demand energy policy improvements from our state legislators. This two-hour training will teach attendees the steps to setting up meetings with their state legislators, give participants the opportunity to organize groups for future visits, and allow participants to sign up for legislative visits on the spot.

Join fellow community members, Clean Energy Action and guest speakers from the Great March for Climate Action in an evening of action, empowerment, and community. Learn how to speak truth to power and demand changes to our deficient energy market.

Colorado_State_Capitol_Building_Denver_Colorado

Training

This evening of action will feature the national activists from the Great March for Climate Action on their last day in Denver. They will discuss the power of community activism for climate action, and they will share their goals as they march across the country demanding action for the climate and sustainability.

Once we are inspired, we will move into an educational component about where we fit in the legislative process as community members. Next, we will practice the most valuable component of creating change: sharing our stories. After we have established what makes us powerful as citizens, we will divide into groups based on districts and create a script for meetings with our legislators. Finally, we will end with the opportunity to sign up to meet with legislators and we’ll write letters to the editor of the Denver Post or other news source about our demands for improvements to our energy economy.

Don’t miss this opportunity to stand in solidarity as community members, call on your legislators to create policy improvements to an energy market that is overdue for change, and be inspired by activists that are traversing the country to demand solutions for our climate and create sustainability.

Logistics

Food will be provided at the beginning of the training. The space is wheelchair accessible. For other ability and language needs, please contact Katie Raitz at (719)640-5803 or katie.raitz@gmail.com Gender-neutral restrooms. We are unable to provide childcare for this event. Non-voting age youth are welcome to attend.

Sign up on the Eventbrite page, and include your zip code so that we can place you in a group with similar constituents. You don’t need to bring a ticket, we’ll have your name at registration. The event will be in the basement of the Church, and there will be signs. Metered parking can be found around the church and there is a lot across the street. The Church is accessible via RTD public transportation.

Pueblo Community Response to Energy Mythunderstanding

by: Paul Huber, President EcoSol

There were two energy related editorials in the May 11th edition of the Chieftain. The first was critical of concerns raised at State Representative Leroy Garcia’s recent town hall meeting in Pueblo on the topic of persistent energy rate increases by Black Hills Energy (BHE). Mr. Keith Lorensen repeats the false, yet familiar, utility and fossil fuel industry message that renewable energy mandates are somehow the driving force behind persistent energy rate escalations. Mr. Trevithick accepts that change is not free, but seems to reinforce the misconception that renewables, i.e. distributed generation solar and/or centralized wind/solar, necessarily result in higher energy costs.

First of all, renewable energy mandates aren’t killing off the coal industry. Natural gas and the increased costs of mining coal are killing the coal industry.

Secondly, modest local clean energy advances don’t explain persistent BHE rate increases locally. In Colorado, every rate category in the Black Hills Energy portfolio has experienced consistent high double digit revenue increases for BHE. Nationally, BHE enjoys some of the highest profit margins of any investor owned utility. Even though energy usage has actually decreased or remained flat in BHE Colorado rate categories, BHE revenues and profits continue to soar year after year. Continue reading

Russian Stencil Roulette

The Myth of Price

Our society’s prevailing economic zeitgeist assumes that everything has a price, and that both costs and prices can be objectively calculated, or at least agreed upon by parties involved in the transaction.  There are some big problems with this proposition.

Externalized costs are involuntary transactions — those on the receiving end of the externalities have not agreed to the deal.  Putting a price on carbon can theoretically remedy this failure in the context of climate change.  In practice it’s much more complicated, because our energy markets are not particularly efficient (as we pointed out in our Colorado carbon fee proposal, and as the ACEEE has documented well), and because there are many subsidies (some explicit, others structural) that confound the integration of externalized costs into our energy prices.

The global pricing of energy and climate externalities is obviously a huge challenge that we need to address, and despite our ongoing failure to reduce emissions, there’s been a pretty robust discussion about externalities.  As our understanding of climate change and its potentially catastrophic economic consequences have matured, our estimates of these costs have been revised, usually upwards.  We acknowledge the fact that these costs exist, even if we’re politically unwilling to do much about them.

Unfortunately — and surprisingly to most people — it turns out that understanding how the climate is going to change and what the economic impacts of those changes will be is not enough information to calculate the social cost of carbon. Continue reading