Colorado will shutter 660 megawatts (MWs) of coal-fired power plants early and replace them with clean energy sources including solar, wind and energy storage becoming latest state to move from coal. The move is being made by the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, and is expected to save its customers in the state at least $213 million while ensuring the utility gets 55 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2026.
On Aug. 27 the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved Xcel Energy's Clean Energy Plan, which will allow the utility to retire Xcel Energy’s coal-fired power plant units 1 and 2 at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo. Under the decision Xcel will close the units a decade early and reducing its carbon emissions by 60 percent below 2005 levels.
“The Colorado Energy Plan is the perfect example of how investing in clean energy protects our health and our environment and at the same time, strengthens our economy,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “The plan is a huge milestone in Colorado’s transition to clean energy that will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas pollution, save customers money, create jobs, and drive $2.5 billion of investment in the economic future of eight mostly rural Colorado counties.”
The less-expensive energy producing facilities include 707 MWs of solar power, 1,131 MWs of wind, and 275 MWs of energy storage. Costs for the solar power projects came in between 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour and 2.7 cents per kWh. Solar projects with energy storage had costs between 3.0 cents per kWh and 3.2 cents per kWh. The commission voted to approve the solar with energy storage projects by a vote of 2 to 1.
The PUC will make its final determinations in early September. “While we’re still awaiting the final, written decision, today's deliberation indicates a significant step forward for decarbonization efforts and clean energy development in Colorado, and the plan is a clear rebuttal to the notion that we have to choose between affordable electricity rates and clean air,” said Zach Pierce, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Colorado.
“The economic, environmental, and public health benefits of replacing two coal units at the Comanche plant with clean energy are profound. The Colorado Energy Plan should stand as an example to all utilities in the region still relying on costly, polluting coal plants to examine how they can benefit from switching to clean energy too,” Pierce said.
The Sierra Club also noted that the utility is taking other steps to further green its energy sources. It is working with Denver and Breckenridge to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity generation as both cities have committed to do. It’s also looking to move forward with a proposed 240 MW behind the meter solar project in Pueblo to power to EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel. The utility would invest $500 million to expand operations in Pueblo under that agreement.
“With approval of this plan, Pueblo is poised to become Colorado’s clean energy hub. Last year, Pueblo announced its commitment to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and now Pueblo County will be home to the construction of three solar projects, two storage projects, and a new switching station, all of which help support new jobs and economic opportunities,” said David Cockrell, chair of the Colorado Sierra Club's Conservation Committee and member of Pueblo's Energy Future.Tweet