In late August 2017, Xcel-Colorado (Public Service Company of Colorado or “PSCo”) submitted a plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) which it named the Colorado Energy Plan or “CEP.” The Colorado Energy Plan was submitted to the PUC as a “Stipulation” in Docket 16A-0396E and the CEP is sometimes referred to as “The Stipulation.” While Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan includes moving up the retirement date for two coal plants—Comanche 1 and 2 in Pueblo, Colorado—the Plan also contains a number of adverse provisions including:
Reducing Xcel’s Renewable Energy Standard Adjustment which is supposed to be used to support renewable energy additions and using the “head room” created by that reduction to pay off the undepreciated portion of Comanche 1 and 2.
Paying Xcel their full level of profit (known as “return at the WACC” or Weighted Average Cost of Capital of about 7 %) on the now stranded coal plants.
Establishing ownership targets for Xcel ownership of replacement generation, potentially reducing the competitive nature of Colorado’s energy market.
Including natural gas in the replacement generation and potentially constraining the analysis of the over 50,000 MW of very cost-effective wind, solar and storage bids that Xcel received in November 2018. The CEP would consider adding about 2000 MW of wind and solar to Xcel’s Colorado system, leaving over 90% of the wind, solar and storage bids “on the table.”
In addition, Clean Energy Action hosted several trainings on the CEP/Stipulation in late January 2018 and numerous citizens that attended the trainings testified at the Colorado PUC on February 1, 2018 in Docket 16A-0396E. Many citizens pointed out that Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan “deal” was not as good a “deal” as Xcel wanted the Commission to believe it was.
On Wednesday March 14, 2018 the Colorado PUC allowed Xcel to bring forth a plan that retires Comanche 1 and 2 early, but did not accept many other parts of the Colorado Energy Plan “Stipulation.” The decision is here.
Unfortunately the Colorado PUC did not specify that Xcel should develop a plan that no longer uses “must-run” requirements for Xcel’s Colorado coal plants, but it did require a “least-cost” modeling run which should begin to show the vast potential for lowering utility costs by incorporating low-cost wind, solar and storage onto Xcel’s Colorado system. Importantly, the sensitivity runs with lower discount rates should show even greater savings from adding wind, solar and storage resources. The modeling report is expected in late April 2018.
The mission of Clean Energy Action is to “accelerate the transition to the post-fossil fuel world,” and we are strong supporters of retiring coal and natural gas plants, but we will also advocate for a “just transition” that does not unduly burden utility ratepayers. The Colorado Energy Plan, while containing some admirable proposals, transfers too much accountability for stranded fossil fuel assets from Xcel to its customers.
Leslie Glustromis a co-founder and board member of Clean Energy Action based here in Boulder, and has more than a decade of experience with Xcel Energy and Colorado’s energy regulatory environment. She will be discussing the current situation we are facing here in Colorado in 2018.
Jacqui Patterson is the Director of the NAACP’s Environment and Climate Justice program. She has worked with the U.S. Climate Action Network, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, and many other organizations on climate, gender, and racial justice, and will be discussing climate justice and equity.
Mariel Nanasi is the Executive Director of New Energy Economy in New Mexico. Her organization, New Energy Economy, recently faced a battle over stranded assets strikingly similar to the fight currently confronting Xcel ratepayers in Colorado. She will be telling us about her organization’s recent successes in bringing equity to stranded asset decisions.
Clean Energy Action is dedicated to taking coal and other fossil fuel assets offline as quickly as possible in a fashion that is just, equitable, and will encourage more responsible behavior by Xcel and other utilities in the future. The legal challenges posed by stranded assets are nuanced and important to understand if we want to move forward to a clean energy future responsibly and equitably, which is why we are thrilled that Ms. Patterson and Ms. Nanasi will be joining us for an evening right here in Boulder to offer their expertise.
Our discussion is open to the public, so join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening, and bring a friend!
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!
For the past three months, Dutch graduate student Mara de Pater, has researched energy democracy in Boulder as part of Environmental Sciences and Anthropology studies. The research, aimed at understanding how the Boulder community gives meaning to the concept of energy democracy, focused on the community’s strong values and beliefs and how the city took on the challenge of exploring municipalization.
Mara will present findings from dozens of interviews, community meetings, and focus groups at the Main Branch Boulder Public Library (1001 Arapahoe Avenue, in the Boulder Creek Room) at 7:00 p.m. next Monday, April 23rd. Her presentation is open to the public, so join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening, and bring a friend!
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.
Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy