By Judith Kohler
The Denver Post
The state’s largest electric cooperative has filed a lawsuit, claiming it lost tens of millions of dollars because Xcel Energy- Colorado’s chronically malfunctioning Comanche 3 coal plant couldn’t deliver as promised.
CORE Electric Cooperative, formerly the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Denver District Court that accuses Xcel Energy of breach of contract.
The lawsuit said the utility didn’t provide reliable power to the electric cooperative as promised in an agreement, resulting in millions of dollars of extra costs when the cooperative had to buy replacement power.
In 2020 alone, the cooperative paid $20 million more for power because Comanche 3 in Pueblo was out of commission for all but a few days that year due to mechanical problems, according to the lawsuit. CORE spokesman Josh Liss said in an email that the court will determine the full extent of the cooperative’s losses.
“We took legal action today to protect our members’ rights in connection with the Comanche power plant,” CORE CEO Jeff Baudier said in a video on the cooperative’s website. “We attempted every way to resolve this dispute with Xcel through business means. We attempted an amicable solution.”
Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said the company is still reviewing the documents, but generally doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.
“That said, Xcel Energy remains committed to ensuring the safe, reliable operation of the plant through its proposed early retirement in 2040,” Aguayo said in an email. “Comanche 3 is one of the lowest cost generating plants on our system and has proven valuable to the system over its life.”
However, a report released March 1 by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission detailed numerous “continuing operations and equipment” problems since the plant opened in 2010. The PUC’s investigation found the plant averaged 91.5 days per year of unplanned outages over the last decade.
The Sedalia-based cooperative, which has about 300,000 customers across the Front Range, has about a 25% interest in Comanche 3.