Colorado Utilities Commission Approve Xcel’s Plan to Replace Coal with Clean Energy

Written By: Jen Neville
August 28, 2018

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission provided its initial approval of Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan to close coal-fired units 1 and 2 at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo ten years ahead of schedule. Colorado’s largest utility will replace that coal generation with a $2.5 billion investment in mostly renewable energy and battery storage that is estimated by Xcel to save ratepayers at least $213 million. The PUC will formalize their support in a written decision, which is due by Tuesday, September 4th.

Earlier this year, Xcel received unprecedented low-priced bids to build new wind, solar, and battery storage capacity, demonstrating to the nation that renewables can outcompete fossil fuels in the marketplace. Xcel’s CEP includes construction of 1131 MW of wind, 707 MW of solar PV, and 275 MW of battery storage across Colorado, with a significant portion set for construction in Pueblo. By 2026, Xcel estimates 55 percent of its electricity in Colorado will be generated by renewable resources, and their total carbon dioxide emissions will drop 60 percent below 2005 levels. Xcel is also working with the cities of Denver and Breckenridge to meet their commitments to 100 percent renewable electricity generation.

Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign commented,

Despite the bluster coming from the Trump Administration, America is rapidly moving away from dirty, expensive coal plants and toward cleaner, cheaper energy resources like solar and wind. American communities want strong leadership from the private and public sectors that saves money, protects our air and water from fossil fuel pollution, and provides real solutions to tackle the climate crisis. This state and local leadership, compounded with historically low prices for renewable energy and battery storage, is supercharging the adoption of clean energy as the primary source of electricity for communities across the country, making dirty, expensive coal plants obsolete. Colorado is showing the nation that moving beyond coal to clean energy is good for our economy, our health, and our families, and we are confident that the list of states making that transition will continue to grow.

Zach Pierce, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Colorado added,
“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. 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.”
With approval of the CEP secured, Xcel is also positioned to move forward with a 240 MW solar project in Pueblo to provide power to EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel, Xcel’s largest private customer in Colorado. EVRAZ and Xcel agreed to a 22-year contract that also clears the way for the steel manufacturer to invest $500 million to expand operations in Pueblo.

In response, David Cockrell, Chair of the Colorado Sierra Club’s Conservation Committee and member of Pueblo’s Energy Future released the following statement, “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.”

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