Tag Archives: Clean Energy Action

In Case You Missed It: Stranded Assets Panel Discussion

Just this last May, Clean Energy Action held an impactful panel on the increasingly important topic of stranded assets. As we move away from coal and other less optimal energy production methods, we must consider what we are leaving behind in order to ensure this movement is in fact of the utmost benefit. Stranded assets in the fossil fuel sector are asset investments that no longer contribute to a company’s profitability; specifically, assets involved in the extraction or burning of the fuels themselves. This panel discussed the complex legal challenges surrounding the purchasing of these stranded assets from companies in order to preserve our slow-but-steady transition away from fossil fuels.

This fascinating and informative panel (which can be seen in its entirety here) was introduced and explained by Leslie Glustrom, co-founder of Clean Energy Action, with over 10 years of experience in Colorado’s energy field. She outlined the stranded asset issue, specifically geared towards the absurdity of Xcel Energy looking for its customers to pay for their stranded assets. Her contribution to the panel can be seen from the beginning until minute 25:20. The next panel speaker was Jacqui Patterson, who is the Director of the NAACP’s Environment and Climate Justice program. Ms. Patterson, with her extensive expertise, did a marvelous job in explaining how we start to tackle this complicated transition so that it is fair for the fossil fuel industry workers, as well as the individuals who pay the bills. Her presentation slides, titled “Energy Equity – Paving a Pathway to a Just Transition,” can be found here. In the video capture of the panel, her section can be seen from minute 25:20 to minute 50:40. The final panel participant was Mariel Nanasi, who is the Executive Director of New Energy Economy in New Mexico. Her portion of the panel focused on her organization’s recent successes in the realm of stranded asset decisions, and how these powerful examples of positive change can be used for future asset decisions in Colorado. Her expertise and awesome panel contribution can be seen from minute 50:40 to minute 1:17:20.

The panel disseminated impactful and important information and we implore you to watch the video, hit the hyperlinks, and do some research of your own about the tricky issue in the way of a complete, rapid, and just transition away from fossil fuels: stranded assets.

In Case You Missed It: Stranded Assets Panel Discussion

Just this last May, Clean Energy Action held an impactful panel on the increasingly important topic of stranded assets. As we move away from coal and other less optimal energy production methods, we must consider what we are leaving behind in order to ensure this movement is in fact of the utmost benefit. Stranded assets in the fossil fuel sector are asset investments that no longer contribute to a company’s profitability; specifically, assets involved in the extraction or burning of the fuels themselves. This panel discussed the complex legal challenges surrounding the purchasing of these stranded assets from companies in order to preserve our slow-but-steady transition away from fossil fuels.

This fascinating and informative panel (which can be seen in its entirety here) was introduced and explained by Leslie Glustrom, co-founder of Clean Energy Action, with over 10 years of experience in Colorado’s energy field. She outlined the stranded asset issue, specifically geared towards the absurdity of Xcel Energy looking for its customers to pay for their stranded assets. Her contribution to the panel can be seen from the beginning until minute 25:20. The next panel speaker was Jacqui Patterson, who is the Director of the NAACP’s Environment and Climate Justice program. Ms. Patterson, with her extensive expertise, did a marvelous job in explaining how we start to tackle this complicated transition so that it is fair for the fossil fuel industry workers, as well as the individuals who pay the bills. Her presentation slides, titled “Energy Equity – Paving a Pathway to a Just Transition,” can be found here. In the video capture of the panel, her section can be seen from minute 25:20 to minute 50:40. The final panel participant was Mariel Nanasi, who is the Executive Director of New Energy Economy in New Mexico. Her portion of the panel focused on her organization’s recent successes in the realm of stranded asset decisions, and how these powerful examples of positive change can be used for future asset decisions in Colorado. Her expertise and awesome panel contribution can be seen from minute 50:40 to minute 1:17:20.

The panel disseminated impactful and important information and we implore you to watch the video, hit the hyperlinks, and do some research of your own about the tricky issue in the way of a complete, rapid, and just transition away from fossil fuels: stranded assets.

Overestimating Natural Gas Reserves Results in Bad Investments & Stranded Assets

Natural gas is viewed by many as a cost effective way to produce power that will be an important stepping stone as we move away from fossil fuels. Coupled with reports from government and industry claiming significant recoverable reserves, natural gas seems like a viable option for the future. So what’s the catch? As it turns out, gas companies are financially motivated to issue the most optimistic reports of their reserves, and overestimation of proved reserves grants a false (and dangerous) sense of security in the fossil fuel sector. This sense of security threatens to undermine the purportedly bright future of natural gas, and accurate reserve reporting education and strict implementation is the only way to avoid economic downfalls, as well as preserve our slow-but-steady transition away from fossil fuels.

When companies log proved reserves, they are claiming that they are at least 90 percent certain that they can produce that amount of energy at today’s prices. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates this process, allows companies to count quantities of gas and oil as part of their proved reserves as long as they plan to drill them out within the next five years; these undrilled resources are referred to as proved undeveloped reserves (PUDs). The company is allowed to count the entire expected lifetime amount of gas for a specific drill site as part of their reserves – long before they break ground, much less understand how fast/slow flowing or dense the shale reservoir may be.

Investors and pipeline companies see proved reserves as the key ingredient for investments, so oil and gas companies are overtly incentivized to produce the rosiest reports possible. Since about half of industry’s proved reserves are undeveloped, this overstatement of ‘proved’ reserves becomes important economically for investors and pipeline companies. Companies such as Shell, El Paso, Stone Energy, and Repsol YPF, among others, have already found themselves in the spotlight, and courtroom, for overstatements of oil and gas reserves. See page 73 here for continued reading on these case studies.

Issues that arise from overestimating proved reserves are complicated, but generally result in stranded assets which can be expensive for rate payers and other companies.  When a gas company touts a large shale gas reservoir, a pipeline company then builds a huge well and pipeline infrastructures to collect and transport this resource and utilities scale up dependence on gas fired power plants (see here). If the gas company overstated the size of the reserve, or it was more complicated and costly to maintain than was initially reported, this will ultimately result in expensive stranded assets.

SEC regulations regarding accurate reserves reports are already in place and significant corporate and/or employee penalties have been issued. Only through rigorous education and ethical enforcement of these regulations can we hope to avoid the economic downfalls caused by overreliance on a limited fossil fuel resource such as stranded assets, financial penalties, and/or lawsuits.

Overestimating Natural Gas Reserves Results in Bad Investments & Stranded Assets

Natural gas is viewed by many as a cost effective way to produce power that will be an important stepping stone as we move away from fossil fuels. Coupled with reports from government and industry claiming significant recoverable reserves, natural gas seems like a viable option for the future. So what’s the catch? As it turns out, gas companies are financially motivated to issue the most optimistic reports of their reserves, and overestimation of proved reserves grants a false (and dangerous) sense of security in the fossil fuel sector. This sense of security threatens to undermine the purportedly bright future of natural gas, and accurate reserve reporting education and strict implementation is the only way to avoid economic downfalls, as well as preserve our slow-but-steady transition away from fossil fuels.

When companies log proved reserves, they are claiming that they are at least 90 percent certain that they can produce that amount of energy at today’s prices. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates this process, allows companies to count quantities of gas and oil as part of their proved reserves as long as they plan to drill them out within the next five years; these undrilled resources are referred to as proved undeveloped reserves (PUDs). The company is allowed to count the entire expected lifetime amount of gas for a specific drill site as part of their reserves – long before they break ground, much less understand how fast/slow flowing or dense the shale reservoir may be.

Investors and pipeline companies see proved reserves as the key ingredient for investments, so oil and gas companies are overtly incentivized to produce the rosiest reports possible. Since about half of industry’s proved reserves are undeveloped, this overstatement of ‘proved’ reserves becomes important economically for investors and pipeline companies. Companies such as Shell, El Paso, Stone Energy, and Repsol YPF, among others, have already found themselves in the spotlight, and courtroom, for overstatements of oil and gas reserves. See page 73 here for continued reading on these case studies.

Issues that arise from overestimating proved reserves are complicated, but generally result in stranded assets which can be expensive for rate payers and other companies.  When a gas company touts a large shale gas reservoir, a pipeline company then builds a huge well and pipeline infrastructures to collect and transport this resource and utilities scale up dependence on gas fired power plants (see here). If the gas company overstated the size of the reserve, or it was more complicated and costly to maintain than was initially reported, this will ultimately result in expensive stranded assets.

SEC regulations regarding accurate reserves reports are already in place and significant corporate and/or employee penalties have been issued. Only through rigorous education and ethical enforcement of these regulations can we hope to avoid the economic downfalls caused by overreliance on a limited fossil fuel resource such as stranded assets, financial penalties, and/or lawsuits.

Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan “Stipulation” – Another Xcel “Deal” That is Not a Deal At All

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.”

Clean Energy Action Board member Leslie Glustrom submitted extensive comments on the “Stipulation” and a final statement.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Best

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.