On Tuesday, May 8th, at 3:00 pm the Boulder County Commissioners will be meeting to hear an update from Xcel Energy about the utility’s plans for the cessation of coal activities at the Valmont Power Station in east Boulder County.
Of particular concern for Boulder County residents is the fate of the coal ash produced by the Valmont plant and the serious threats that ash poses to water quality and public health in the region.
This meeting is open to the public but there will not be a public comment period at the meeting. If you want to submit a comment to the Commissioners or a question you would like them to ask Xcel on May 8th, we encourage you to submit your question or comment to the Commissioners before the deadline on April 30th.
Clean Energy Action will be hosting Nancy LaPlaca, a coal ash expert and a veteran of the fight against coal in Colorado, for an informational session to discuss the issues at George Reynolds Library the night before the meeting. For more information on the state of Colorado’s coal ash and the risks it poses to the public, check out Clean Water Fund’s full report and join us as we confront the legacy of coal-burning in Boulder County!
In an interview last month with John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Colorado Senator Stephen Fenberg voiced his opinions on the importance of local power in terms of demanding energy from cleaner sources. He spoke about the long standing debate of switching to more clean energy sources in an economically feasible manner. He states that technology will allow cheap clean energy, but the barrier that is holding back this transfer from coal power to renewables is orchestrated politically and legally by the utilities.steve His argument is not inherently against investor-owned utilities, it is about the role our utilities play in maintaining and promoting the regulatory barriers that exist today and prevent us from pursuing renewable energy to its fullest extent. Fenberg enforces the idea that “utilities do have an immense amount of power and authority and financial resources behind them”, which makes it difficult for communities to hold a threat to utilities.
What’s really exciting now though, is that technologies are available and are cheap enough to move us to a clean energy future. At this point it’s about giving communities the opportunity and power to control their energy future. Senator Fenberg describes how “there shouldn’t be these regulatory barriers to keeping individuals, as well as communities, from being able to use these technologies and new opportunities to have more control over their energy future.”
It is now regulation, not technology, that stands between Boulder and its objectives. That is why municipalization is necessary for Boulder to meet its renewable energy goals. The process is not quick or simple, but because of the challenges Fenberg discusses, Boulder needs to take control of its energy future before the City can pursue the many exciting options and technologies that will take Boulder to its renewable energy future.
Check out the full interview here for more information about Senator Fenberg’s thoughts on local power.
In late February 2018, Xcel and Denver signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or “MOU” that was touted as a way for Denver to work towards its goal of a 100% renewable energy. Clean Energy Action took a close look at the MOU and found that the substance did not match the hype. A summary of that analysis is below and the full analysis is attached.
A key goal of the analysis is to help Denver advocates recognize the limits of the MOU so as to better advocate for a cleaner energy future and for advocates in other communities to begin to better understand what is happening when their City representatives are talking about signing an MOU with Xcel.
Summary of the Analysis of the Xcel-Denver MOU
The Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Denver and Xcel (Public Service Company of Colorado or PSCo) executed in late February 2018 is primarily a document of lofty statement, but is non-binding and contains no commitments from Xcel to reduce the carbon intensity of their electricity and move to a high level of renewable energy. Rather, the MOU could easily serve to distract the City of Denver and its residents from efforts to decarbonize their electricity and even could be used by Xcel to entice the City of Denver into supporting Xcel’s proposals at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that are very likely not what most Denver residents and businesses would support if they understood them.
Dear Renewable Energy Advocates–We have an AMAZING opportunity to move clean energy forward in Colorado–but we need your help to “get it right.” Please come to a training below and then to the PUC hearing on Feb 1, 2018. (Docket 16A-0396E “Stipulation” hearing)
Here are the key dates so far:
Monday January 22, 2018–6 pm, Boulder Training
Meadows Public Library,
Boulder, Colorado (4800 Baseline, behind the Safeway)
The February 1, 2018 PUC hearing is a critical opportunity for the public to help shape the PUC’s response to the need to retire Xcel’s coal plants long before their expected retirement dates.
This hearing will be about moving the retirement of the Comanche 1 and 2 coal plants in Pueblo up about 10 years into the 2020s. This is, of course, a step in the right direction, but we need your help to make the PUC understand the following:
Move Faster on Coal Retirements: We are in a crisis on climate change. We can and must move faster by retiring these coal plants even earlier and working to retire the rest of Xcel’s coal fleet much sooner also.
Don’t Rush to Build More Natural Gas: Replacing coal plants with wind, solar, storage and demand side options makes good economic and environmental sense. This is not true for building new natural gas capacity which will likely just become stranded in its own time.
Don’t Make Xcel’s Customers Pay for All of Xcel’s Poorly Considered Expenditures on Coal: Xcel has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into their old coal plants in Colorado in this century–including into Comanche 1 and 2. Now Xcel wants us to pay for all of this–and pay them their return (think “profit,” at their Weighted Average Cost of Capital or WACC) on the ill-considered coal plant expenditures they have made in recent years. This isn’t a just or equitable solution for ratepayers. If we are to set a fair and equitable precedent for how we dig ourselves out of the very deep hole we’ve dug on coal in Colorado, it will be up to the informed citizens who testify on February 1, 2018 at the PUC to get it done!
Just come to a training and we’ll walk you through
the key parts and make sure your statement is on-point and powerful! In case you haven’t noticed, climate change impacts are already getting really serious. Please help us move Xcel further, faster on the clean energy path–and when we move Xcel, we move all of Colorado utilities and the entire US utility industry.
Decision-making in economic and political systems tends to flow from purpose-built leadership positions. Large, unwieldy organizational systems typically endow key leaders, be they CEOs, senior appointees, or committee chairs, with the authority, the resources, and the messaging microphone required to steer the organization with relative ease. However, there are times when the entire organizational system requires an overhaul, and these times often demand that those outside of natural leadership positions take the wheel. Sometimes, when an entrenched organizational scheme requires top-to-bottom overhaul, rather than gentle guidance, those intended to lead must themselves be led. The world of energy finds itself in one such moment today, as seen at both the state and international levels.
Last week international leaders met at COP23, the second “conference of the parties” since the signing of the Paris Agreement. They were meeting to discuss what global climate policy will look like both before and after 2020, when the Agreement officially goes into effect. President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this year that he plans to withdraw the United States from the Agreement set the tone of the discussions for the official US delegation. The message coming from the intended leaders was that the United States is drawing back from international climate obligations.
However, they were not the only Americans present in Bonn. An unofficial delegation of citizens traveled to the conference, also to represent the United States and to deliver a simple message to the rest of the world: we are still in.
This second delegation delivered the America’s Pledge Phase 1 report, detailing the efforts of committed citizens to uphold the standards agreed to in Paris in 2015, in spite of the federal government’s withdrawal. This comprehensive report discusses the success of the U.S. Climate Alliance (of which Colorado is a member and CEA is a proud supporter) and other coalitions that are dedicated to picking up the banner of climate action where the Trump administration has let it fall. This We Are Still In delegation, collectively representing more than half of America’s economy, detailed the steps they have taken to begin working from the bottom up to achieve the 2025 U.S. emissions outcomes asked for by the Paris Accords, and promised additional analysis in a Phase 2 report to be published in 2018. The members of this second delegation may have represented leaders within their respective organizations (mayors, governors, CEOs, board presidents and others), but when it comes to expressing the intentions of the American people as a whole, they are now required to lead from the outside.
As US climate leaders declared their intentions in Bonn, a smaller group of local activists met in Denver to deliver a petition to Xcel Energy at their local headquarters, asking the utility to take the next step towards the post-fossil fuel world. This group was led by 350 Colorado and the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, which represents Clean Energy Action and 22 community, faith, and environmental organizations from around Colorado. Our requests included
the closure of all Xcel coal plants by 2030
the closure of all fracking gas plants by 2035
a commitment to convert to at least 80% renewable sources of electricity by 2030
completion of a study by the end of 2018 that explores how to achieve 100% renewable electricity in Colorado by 2030
The CCLC represents more than 100,00 Coloradans, and speaks to the expressed desires of many more. This petition represents the work of climate warriors across the state who believe that now is the time for Xcel to end their lifelong reliance on coal and natural gas. “Xcel Energy has a great opportunity to move away from fossil fuels and provide customers with the affordable, clean energy they’re demanding,” said Kevin Cross, a member of the Fort Collins Sustainability Group and a leader of CCLC. As American leaders announce our renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement in Germany, there is no better time for our electric utility to step up its commitment to providing cleaner, cheaper energy for our state.
These petitioners may represent many of Xcel’s ratepayers and workers, but they do not hold the reins of Colorado’s grid infrastructure. The petitioners are not the PUC commissioners, corporate officers, or shareholder representatives; they are not the intended guardians of the state’s power grid. Nonetheless, the failure of the intended leadership to responsibly weigh the consequences of our collective decisions requires us, like the representatives of the We Are Still In delegation, to lead from without.
On the same day, separated by an ocean and thousands of miles, two coalitions delivered two statements to which Clean Energy Action was a party. We recently asked our supporters to sign a petition to Governor Hickenlooper to bring Colorado into the US Climate Alliance, and we see the effects of those signatures in Bonn where Colorado is one of nine states fully committed to the coalition. More recently we asked our supporters to affix their names to the CCLC’s petition to Xcel, and our voices were heard loud and clear in Denver last week demanding a greener, more efficient future. Both efforts demonstrate that it is not only possible to exercise leadership from outside traditional positions of power, but sometimes it is necessary.
We thank the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, the We Are Still Coalition, and the US Climate Alliance, but most of all we thank all of you who provide the citizen power that carries us forward.