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.
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. 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 proud 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.
As US climate leaders proudly 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 this petition represents the work of countless 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.
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. In May, we asked our supporters to sign a petition to Governor Hickenlooper to sign Colorado onto 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. 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.
Boulder, we have a friend in Xcel’s hometown of Minneapolis, MN. John Farrell of the Institute of Local Self Reliance has been educating communities for years on the economic benefits of self governance for essentials like energy, banking and waste management. Needless to say he took careful note when Minneapolis looked into municipalization, which did not pass just a few years ago. Today he says: “If I had the chance to go to the polls tomorrow and give Minneapolis the opportunity to take over, I would do it.” See his whole message for Boulder at the link below.
John Farrell has been teaching that “communities have to take control of their energy future, regardless of whether the federal government is a clean energy friend or foe.”
Clean Energy Action’s research has been near the heart of the City of Boulder’s understanding of why working with a coal-based investor-owned utility (IOU) can be so difficult for cities that are serious about clean energy and shutting down fossil-powered generation. We have been early but quiet supporters of local power – a municipal utility created for clean energy generation plus local innovation, more reliability and possibly lower rates.
For years CEA has accessed XcelEnergy’s dockets at the Public Utilities Commission and found the layers of power and law that protect the monopoly’s hold on the electricity market in most of Colorado. From those documents came the truth of the company’s generation plans with the fuel costs being passed straight to ratepayers while the profits go out of state, from the return-on-investment on capital spent on fossil-burning plants. Even as coal proved to have an untenable future with the industry’s many bankruptcies (never mind the climate impacts), Xcel overbuilt its coal burning fleet, and its whole system, for profits.
All of this was done in the face of increasingly visible climate change. All of this was done as the cost-competitiveness of wind power was proven in Xcel’s dockets. All of this was done amid state politics that were unlikely to pass legislation (such as Community Choice Aggregation, or Deregulation) to allow jurisdictions to contract independently for their electricity. Xcel customers have been trapped with Xcel’s foot dragging on clean energy and restrictions on distributed generation & storage, all to protect the “central-gen” model based on fossil-burning plants.
All of this is why CEA embraced the many advantages of municipalization – local municipal power that promises to be more affordable, reliable and responsive to ratepayers than IOU power ever can be. Boulder should continue this journey to find out the true costs of this venture!
With that, we refer you to many fine sources on this: