Category Archives: Politics

Update–Windsource Transparent Recalculation Postponed

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom on December 28, 2010 – 12:50am

Many supporters of Clean Energy Action are subscribers to Xcel’s “Windsource” program. In recent years, the “Windsource” program has been modified to include not just  wind but also solar and other clean energy sources that are used to meet Xcel’s Renewable Energy Portfolio standard under Colorado law. Consequently, the quotations around the “Windsource” name reflect that “Windsource” can also be providing solar or other non-wind clean energy sources.

The cost of Windsource is approximately $2 per 100 kwh–or about 2 cents/kwh. This is close to a 20% bill impact (on a 10 cent/kwh) charge while Xcel is meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard with less than a 2% bill impact, as called for in Colorado law. The reason why Windsource has a 20% bill impact while meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard has only a 2% rate impact are unclear.

In Docket 09A-772E I worked hard to understand how the Windsource premium was calculated. Despite numerous questions (called “Discovery Requests”) to Xcel and many days of hearing and cross-examination, the basis for the $2 per 100 kwh charge was still completely unclear.

Both the Administrative Law Judge and the full Public Utility Commission agreed that the “Windsource” calculation was not clear and in two separate decisions Xcel was directed to recalculate the “Windsource” premium as part of its 2011 Renewable Energy Standard filing.

After the issuance of these decisions calling for Xcel to recalculate the “Windsource” premium, Xcel asked the Commission to excuse it from filing a 2011 Renewable Energy Standard plan and the Commission granted Xcel’s request. As a result, the recalculation of the “Windsource” premium in a transparent fashion has again been postponed until at least Xcel’s 2012 Renewable Energy Standard filing expected in May 2011 with testimony and hearings expected to last through much of 2011.

Xcel was directed to make a “compliance” filing of the Windsource calculation, which it did on December 14, 2010 and that filing is attached. Once again, the numbers in Attachment B of this compliance filing are completely unclear–particularly Columns 2 and 3 which are the incremental costs and the incremental GWh (Gigawatt hours) for the Windsource program–but which do not have any supporting spreadsheets or calculations.

Xcel’s compliance filing from December 14, 2010 shows (on Attachment B) that the Windsource premium should be about $1.86 per 100 kwh (instead of the $2.12 per 100 kwh that is being charged) but since the difference between the two rates is less than 20%, Xcel does not have to make a change to its “Windsource” premium.

The key decisions in the 09A-772E docket are attached and the key “Windsource” provisions are summarized below. All documents in the 09A-772E docket can be found by searching the PUC website for the 09A-772E docket number and specifying that it is for the electric industry.

Recommended Decision R10-0586 (June 11, 2010)–See Paragraph 135 on page 32 for the Adminstrative Law Judge’s decision that Xcel should recalculate the Windsource premium.

Decision C10-1033 (September 23, 2010)–See Paragraph 12 on page 5 and Paragraph 43 on page 14 for the full Commission’s decision requiring Xcel to “clearly explain how the Windsource premium is calculated”  in the 2011 Renewable Energy Standard filing.

Decision C10-1221 (November 10, 2010)–See Paragraphs 8-11 on pages 3-4 allowing Xcel to not submit a 2011 Renewable Energy Standard filing and allowing Xcel to recalculate the “Windsource” premium in a “compliance filing.” Compliance filings are not typically subject to questioning or cross-examination.

At this time it appears that it will likely be late 2011 before the Commission will once again rule on whether the “Windsource” premium has been calculated in a transparent and proper fashion.

[The CEA website is having problems with file attachments. Please contact Clean Energy Action or Leslie Glustrom if you would like the documents discussed in this blog. Thank you.]

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

Continued Reliance on Coal Will Lead to Higher Utility Bills

Submitted by Amy Guinan on November 4, 2010

With growing foreign demand, diminishing “economically-feasible” coal reserves, and rising mining costs, since October of 2009, the price for a one- month contract for Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal, a main Colorado supplier, has risen 67 percent to $13.80 a ton.  Powder River Basin coal has historically been priced at $5 a ton.

With almost 60 percent of Colorado’s electricity generated from coal-fired power plants, the increasing cost of coal will likely continue to be reflected in rate-payers electricity bills.  Xcel Energy, for instance, has had three rate increases in the last 4 years in part to pay for construction of the utilities’ newest coal-fired power plant, Unit III, in Pueblo, CO.

And current electricity prices don’t take into account the impact of possible legislation to curb emissions of carbon dioxide at the federal and state level. “Legislation that’s now stalled in Congress could have placed up to a $17 charge on a ton of carbon emissions. Burning a ton of coal creates about 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide.”

For more information, visit the CEA Coal Supply Constraints Report: Coal_Supply_Constraints_CEA and the Denver Post article on rising coal costs.

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.