Category Archives: Colorado

Xcel’s 2011 Wind Bid Analysis–Wind Reduces System Costs Even Without CO2 Costs

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom

In 2009 Xcel’s modeling showed that adding renewable energy to their system would lower system costs when a cost for CO2 emissions was added for fossil fuel resources.

Now, in the (attached) modeling results received from Xcel, the three most competitive wind bids received in January 2011 and discussed in the attached Xcel Bid Report, will lower Xcel’s system costs in Colorado–even without including a cost for CO2 emissions. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that this has been shown in Colorado.

The key spreadsheet showing this is LWG 2-1.Al. xls. The question asked can be found in the 10A-377E LWG 2 document. The fact that no cost on CO2 was included is found in footnote 3 on page 15 of the Xcel witness Kurt Haeger’s Rebuttal testimony which is also attached.

Under the assumptions tab in the spreadsheet, note that the cost of coal is assumed to stay essentially flat for the next 30 years, despite the fact that Xcel’s coal costs have been going up about 10% a year for the last several years….A more reasonable assumption about future coal costs would also help improve the modeling results for renewable resources. Similarly, if the actual cost of natural gas is higher than the projections shown, then the wind will save ratepayers more money. The natural gas cost projections are some of the lowest used by Xcel in recent years so it seems unlikely that natural gas costs will drop lower than the projections–but only time will tell.

The wind modeling results (which include the Production Tax Credit for wind), show what we have all been waiting for, which is that renewable energy sources can increasingly be justified on price alone–even without consideration of CO2 and other external costs. This bodes well for efforts to include more renewable energy in the future.

Attachment Size
2011 Wind RFP Bid Evaluation Report   1.8 MB
Attachment LWG2-1.A1   41 KB
10A-377E Haeger Rebuttal   512 KB
10A-377E LWG2   61 KB
Photo courtesy of martinpro

Colorado Coal Plants–$380 Million in Pollution Control for the Aging Pawnee and Hayden Coal Plants

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom

Colorado’s “Clean Air Clean Jobs” coal plant retirement/retrofitting docket at the Public Utilities Commission (Docket 10M-245E) has led to plans to retire most of Xcel’s coal plants in the Denver metro area. This is an important step forward in the process of modernizing Xcel’s generation system and supporting the addition of more renewable energy in the coming years and decades.

Unfortunately, Xcel “slipped” in the addition of expensive pollution controls to the Hayden coal plants (west of Steamboat Springs) and the “Pawnee” coal plant (in Brush, northeast of Denver.) The polllution controls would cost about $380 million and would extend the lives of the coal plants until 2025 and beyond.

The “Pawnee” and Hayden coal plants–along with the newly built and retrofitted “Comanche” plants in Pueblo– are the last coal plants on Xcel’s Colorado system.

If Xcel proceeds with the pollution controls on “Pawnee” and Hayden, then it becomes more difficult to advocate for the retirement of these coal plants and there will not be a way to get significant CO2 reductions from Xcel’s Colorado system for many years.

The details on the proposed pollution controls are summarized here:

  • Hayden 1 is a 45-year-old coal plant worth about $32 million to Xcel. Adding selective catalytic reduction for nitrogen oxide control is expected to cost about $67 million, or more than twice the existing value of the coal plant. After retrofitting, Xcel intends to operate Hayden 1 until 2025.
  • Hayden 2 is a 34-year-old coal plant worth about $28 million. The SCR pollution controls would cost about $80 million. After retrofitting, Xcel intends to operate Hayden 2 until 2036.
  • Pawnee is a 29-year-old coal plant worth about $238 million. The proposed pollution controls for nitrogen, sulfur and mercury are expected to cost about $236 million. After retrofitting, Xcel intends to operate the “Pawnee” coal plant until 2041.

None of the pollution controls will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas.

Colorado PUC Decision C10-1328 in the Clean Air Clean Jobs docket is attached below along with the “RRR” (Application for Rehearing, Reargument or Reconsideration–i.e. appeal) from Leslie Glustrom questioning the wisdom of these pollution controls.

Colorado citizens will continue to question whether retirement is not the better option for these aging coal plants in order to transition to truly clean generation that begins to stabilize electric utility rates.

Photo courtesy of dgrinbergs

Attachment Size
Decision No. C10-1328 Docket No. 10M-245E Final Order 463 KB
Docket No. 10M-245E Glustrom Rehearing Reargument or Reconsideration of C10-1328 745 KB

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

Windsource–Xcel’s Latest Filing Still Inscrutable

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom

On December 14, 2010 Xcel filed an update on its calculation of the Windsource premium. It is attached below.

Once again, the method used to determine the Windsource premium is still largely inscrutable–particularly the first step of determining the incremental cost of the additional renewable resources. A motion describing the concern and asking the PUC to exercise its oversight on this issue is also attached below.

Xcel is expected to file a Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan for 2012 in the spring of 2011. This will be another opportunity to bring additional transparency to the Windsource calculation.

Attachment Size
09A-772E Compliance Filing Windsource Calculation 7.3 MB
09A-772E PUC Oversight Windsource 41 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: