Shared from the 2018-08-22 The Denver Post eEdition
Coal’s status as dominant source of power fading
By Aldo Svaldi The Denver Post
The Trump administration will repeal the Clean Power Plan, saying Monday it wants to give states more of a say on their coal power plants. But the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act of 2010 already set Colorado on the path that reduced its reliance on coal.
Xcel Energy Colorado shut down or converted to natural gas the remaining coal units at three of its generating stations in the metro area between 2011 and 2017 to comply with the act or prior commitments. Those included Cherokee in Adams County, Arapahoe in Denver and Valmont in Boulder County.
It also upgraded the emission controls at its Hayden station in Routt County and Pawnee Station in Morgan County as part of the act, which cost about $1 billion to implement, Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said.
Next week, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, in its review of the Colorado Energy Plan, will decide whether Xcel can close two older units at the Comanche Generation Station in Pueblo in 2022 and 2025, while leaving a third newer and larger unit in operation.
Two years ago, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced it would close a power plant and nearby coal mine in Nucla by 2022, as well as a coal-fired unit at its Craig Generation Station in Moffat County by 2025.
Those closures, and upgrades to the emission control systems at the two remaining plants in Craig, are being undertaken to comply with federal rules on air quality and haze.
Opponents of the Martin Drake coal power plant in downtown Colorado Springs last year pushed to have it close in 2025, a decade ahead of schedule. But the city council, which oversees the municipal utility, in December voted to keep it running through 2035.
But if competing sources make a compelling economic argument, the council left the door open to closing Martin Drake and the nearby Ray D. Nixon plant ahead of schedule. That would knock out two more coal plants.
That day could be fast approaching. Xcel Energy Colorado reported that a kilowatt hour of electricity generated from coal on its system cost 4.5 cents last year, while for wind it was only 4.4 cents and natural gas 7.3 cents. When Xcel put out bids late last year for future electricity supply, wind providers beat coal, even after including battery storage.
That created an economic justification for closing the two Comanche units, although opponents argue the Colorado Energy Plan will stick ratepayers with the added costs because of an early retirement rather than putting them on shareholders.
Coal’s share of power generation in Xcel’s energy mix is declining rapidly. In 2005, coal sources provided about two-thirds of the electricity its customers used in the state, with natural gas at 30 percent and wind and solar at 2 percent each.
Last year, coal had dropped to 44 percent, with natural gas at 28 percent, wind at 23 percent and solar and other renewable sources at 5 percent. The Colorado Energy Plan would take coal down to 24 percent of the power generation mix by 2026 and significantly boost wind and solar.