Category Archives: Boulder

Smart Grid City-PUC Decision Withholds $16 Million from Xcel

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom

On February 8, 2011, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission published Decision C11-0139 withholding $16 million from Xcel until the utility is able to demonstrate a “coherent and valuable future” for the Smart Grid City (“SCG”) project in Boulder, Colorado.

Decision C11-0139 is attached below.

In particular, the PUC asked Xcel to demonstrate:

  • A strategic plan for the use of the Smart Grid City investment
  • A credible promise of consumer and utility benefits sufficient to justify the cost overruns
  • The ability of customers to make practical use of the Smart Grid City on their side of the meter through in-home devices.
  • (See paragraph 19, page 6 Decision C11-0139, Colorado PUC)

The Commission summarized its position on the Smart Grid City project saying:

In summary, this Commission believes that the Company needs to re-boot the SGC project and restore some of the promise this concept originally held. (Paragraph 23, page 7, Decision C11-0139, Colorado PUC).

Xcel has 20 days to contest the decision through the PUC appeal process.

Attachment Size
Decision No. C11-0139 Docket No. 10A-124E Order on Exceptions 184 KB

Xcel’s Ballooning SmartGrid Costs Get Partly Deflated at the PUC

Submitted by amyguinan

When implementation of Boulder’s SmartGrid City began in 2008, it was one of the first and most comprehensive experiments in the nation with smart-grid technology, which uses computers to manage electricity distribution and allows for communication between utilites and consumers.  At the time, the total cost for SmartGrid implementation was estimated at $100 million and Xcel’s share at $15.3 million. The remainder would be paid by companies partnering in the pilot.

By last year, however, Xcel’s share had ballooned to $44.5 million.

In an unexpected move in January, The Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission ruled Xcel could include only two-thirds of the $44.5 million cost of the smart-grid test in its rate base. The remaining $16.6 million will be off limits until Xcel can show the Boulder-based project’s benefits to Colorado ratepayers, the commission said.

“I’m struggling with how quickly those costs have escalated,” said PUC commissioner James Tarpey. Tarpey noted in testimony that an Xcel official had said that if there had been a cap on expenses, the utility would not have conducted the pilot. The message, Tarpey said, was: “Yeah, we really want to do it, but not with our money.”

For more information, see Mark Jaffe’s Denver Post article, here: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_17021599

Limits on what Xcel can charge customers for Boulder Smart Grid

Submitted by Lili Francklyn on November 10, 2010 – 6:34pm

Under the settlement Xcel would be entitled to full cost recovery from 1.4 million ratepayers across Colorado – not exceeding $44.5 million.

The utility’s SmartGridCity, originally estimated at roughly $15 million – and not to be incurred by Boulder ratepayers – has seen costs rise to more than $44.5 million since its 2007 inception.

If no protests are lodged within 20 days, the PUC will adopt the recommendation and pass the cost of Xcel’s SmartGridCity onto ratepayers.  Email the PUC with protests or complaints;
pucconsumer.complaints@dora.state.co.us

Boulder’s SmartGridCity: A Meltdown?

Boulder was chosen as Xcel’s SmartGridCity and implementation of the project began in 2008.  As the SmartGrid project unfolds, though, considerable challenges and cost-increases are being encountered and citizens are wondering if the SmartGridCity is, in fact, a meltdown.

Key points pulled from filings to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission regarding Xcel’s request for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) resulted in the compilation of the following points and allegations related to Xcel’s Smart Grid:

— Xcel didn’t file a CPCN before the project started in 2008 because they didn’t think they needed to for what they deemed a research project.

–Without a CPCN there was no opportunity for the PUC or other interested parties to consider capping costs to protect ratepayers

–A traditional cost-benefit analysis wasn’t performed prior commencing the project

–The original $15.3 million project estimate soared to $27.9 million and at last report to $44.8 million due to higher costs of permits, tree trimming, software and negotiations; and to the amount of rock they had to drill through for fiber optic lines.

–Several key Xcel project executives left early last year

–Xcel asked the PUC last year to OK a rate increase to recoup some of its project costs. That’s when the commission decided Xcel needed a CPCN to prove the project is prudent and in the public interest

–As the project nears completion, only 43% of Boulder residents have smart meters, which the company says allows a side-by-side comparison

–The metering system is not providing as many in-home benefits anticipated as part of a Smart Grid program

 

Decarbonization for Boulder-Is It Feasible?

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom on May 11, 2010 – 10:39pm

What is meant by decarbonization and could Boulder actually do it?

Decarbonization is a relatively recent term that in this case refers to reducing the carbon content of Boulder’s energy, starting with electricity as the first step. The second step would be to decarbonize the transportation system by moving to electric powered vehicles using the highest level of renewable energy possible. After that, there will be many steps to full decarbonization, but as with any large project, the way to begin is to take the first step–which in this case is decarbonization of the electric supply.

According to the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan, about 57% of the City’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to electricity use–with 46% of that being for the commerical and industrial sectors and 11% with the residential sector. By lowering the carbon content of Boulder’s electric supply–or “decarbonizing,” significant reductions can be made in greenhouse gas emissions.

A group of citizens with representation from a number of community groups has suggested that Boulder set a goal of 30% decarbonization by 2012 and 80-100% decarbonization of the electric supply by 2020. There is also a team of people working with the City Staff as the “Decarbonization Tech Team” to explore these possibilities.

Reproduced below is a summary sheet addressing the feasibility of decarbonizing Boulder’s electric supply.

*********************

Stepwise Decarbonization–Is it Feasible??

References available from Leslie Glustrom 303-245-8637 lglustrom at gmail.com
Version 1.1 April 30, 2010

Colorado Has Abundant Wind and Solar Resources

Colorado has over 20 times the amount of wind and solar potential needed to power the state, according to analyses done by the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Governor’s Energy Office.(1) In addition, Colorado has significant methane, biomass, geothermal, efficiency and waste-to-energy resources available for potential development.

Colorado Has Thousands of MW of “Wrench Ready” Clean Energy Projects

In April 2009, Xcel (in Colorado) received over 15,000 MW of wind, solar and other renewable energy bids. (2)

Xcel was looking for about 1,000 MW and so will leave approximately 14,000 MW of clean energy projects sitting in notebooks. Bids submitted to Xcel needed to be fully engineered and to show access to the land, the wind turbines or solar panels, the ability to finance and permit the project and a method of transmitting the electricity to market.  

Thousands of MW of Clean Energy Projects Could be Built in 2011-2012

Of the bids submitted to Xcel Energy in Colorado in April 2009, over 6,000 MW of wind and over 1,000 MW of solar was proposed for development in 2011 and 2012. Clearly, these are “wrench ready” bids. (3)

Modeling Analyses Indicate that Renewable Energy Is Now Cost Competitive

Adding more renewable energy to Xcel’s system is likely to drive system costs down, not up according to Xcel’s modeling of the bids it received using the assumptions approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. As the costs of fossil fuels rise and as efforts to address pollution from fossil fuel burning increase, the costs of operating fossil fuel generating resources mounts while the costs of renewable energy resources fall. This means that shifting to renewable energy can not only be cleaner, it can help reduce the cost of electricity in the 21st century. (4)

Setting “Stretch” Goals Drives Innovation and Economic Success

The entire history of human civilization is driven by the setting of “stretch” goals—and the individuals, companies and countries that set those goals and meet them invariably profit tremendously. China has strong clean energy goals. The United States is caught in policy gridlock in Washington DC. Every utility in the United States will need to decarbonize in the next 1-2 decades. Either our country will fall into mass chaos or the companies and communities that foresee this need and align themselves according will profit immensely from this need. Will this be Boulder or some other community?

Is There an Electric Provider Willing to Partner withBoulder in Meeting These Decarbonization Goals?

At the present time, it is unclear whether Boulder’s present electricity provider, Xcel Energy, is willing to partner with Boulder in meeting the decarbonization goals that are needed to address climate change, drive economic development and avoid fossil-fuel driven utility rate increases. If Xcel Energy does not want to become a willing partner in this effort, citizens will suggest that it is time to find a new electricity provider and not renew the Xcel franchise agreement that expires in late 2010.

References on the reverse side.

References for Stepwise Decarbonization—Is It Feasible  v 1.1 2010-04-30

1) Information on Colorado’s potential for wind and solar can be found in the Governor’s Energy Office report, Connecting Colorado’s Renewable Resources to the Markets, available at http://www.energy.ca.gov/reti/documents/2007-12-21_CO_%20SB91_Task_Force_Report.pdf . Information on the 96 GW of wind potential in Colorado is on pages 8-11. Information on the over 200 GW of Concentrating Solar Power potential is on pages 12-15 and 63 and 64. See especially the bullets at the bottom of page 64. Colorado’s peak electric demand is presently under 12 GW.

2) Information on the 15,000 MW of clean energy bids submitted to Xcel in April 2009 can be found in the “30 Day Report” (submitted May 2009) and the “120 Day Report” (submitted August 2009) to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in Docket 07A-447E, the 2007 Resource Plan. The reports can be downloaded fromhttps://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI.Show_Docket?p_session_id=&p_docket_id=07A-447E .

3) For the information on bids ready for development in 2011 and 2012, see pages 4 and 5 in the 30 Day Report submitted in May 2009 in the 07A-447E Resource Plan Docket. The report can be downloaded from https://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI.Show_Docket?p_session_id=&p_docket_id=07A-447E.

4) Information on Xcel’s modeling of the April 2009 bids can be found in Figures 15 and 16 in the “120 Day Report” submitted in August 2009 to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission  in the 07A-447E Docket. The report can be downloaded from

https://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI.Show_Docket?p_session_id=&p_docket_id=07A-447E .

Further information and references available from

Leslie Glustrom at lglustrom at gmail.com or 303-245-8637.