Northwest Colorado gets grant, Tri-State a new CFO & other snippets from Colorado’s ever-shifting energy landscape
Time-out in Mesa County for big solar arrays in order to develop regs
Mesa County has on Jan. 10 adopted a six-month moratorium on new commercial solar arrays to give the county staff and area residents time to adopt appropriate regulations governing them.
The Grand Junction Sentinel reports that the moratorium was supported by solar developers. It came at the behest of several residents, particularly in the Palisade area, who have been upset by new solar arrays.
“Numerous counties across Colorado have developed sensible and sound, pro-growth and pro-business large-scale solar project regulations,” said Lou Villaire, general manager of Atlasta Solar Center, a Grand Junction-based firm. “We are grateful to see that the moratorium is narrowly tailored and is intended to balance the positive that the new businesses bring.”
Commissioner Janet Rowland said this issue differs from natural gas in that many regulations cover natural gas. “It’s very different in this situation, whereas (solar) is not in our code.”
In an editorial, the Sentinel applauded the moratorium while also calling out why solar has been surging. Gov. Jared Polis has signed more than 30 bills since 2021 to accelerate the transition to green energy. Colorado ranks sixth among states in the amount of sunshine it receives. Cooler temperatures – at least compared with Arizona — improve solar panel efficiency.
Northwest Colorado group gets $100,000 grant to help imagine life beyond coal
The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado has been awarded $100,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to “repurpose existing energy assets with a focus on collaboration and a pragmatic working style.”
Northwest Colorado has three working coal mines in Routt, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties. It also has five coal-burning units at Hayden and Craig. The first unit is to close in 2025 and the last by 2030, although Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the operator of the three Craig units, has proposed to accelerate the closing of the last coal unit to 2028.
Tiffany Dickenson, executive director of the council of governments, called the grant a “crucial catalyst for the evolution of Craig as the community transitions away from coal. It empowers us to explore and implement innovative strategies that will redefine the community’s energy infrastructure, promoting sustainable and economic growth.”
Routt, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties altogether have 2,862 jobs related to coal, according to the council. Coal represents 21.7% of gross domestic product in the three-county area. In Moffat County, where Craig is located, it’s even higher: 47% of GDP and 19.8% of jobs.
Todd Telesz joins Tri-State, taking place of Pat Bridges as chief financial officer
Todd Telesz will join Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association as senior vice president and chief financial officer, beginning Jan. 29.
Telesz brings decades of financial and cooperative leadership to the not-for-profit wholesale power supply cooperative.
He most recently served as chief executive officer and general manager of Basin Electric Power Cooperative, leading the 141-member, multi-state generation and transmission cooperative. He served in the capacity for two years before resigning abruptly in June 2023, according to the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune.
Bismarck-based Basin Electric has 141 member utilities in nine states of the upper Midwest, while Tri-State has 42 members in Colorado and three adjoining states.
Before going to North Dakota, Telesz had been in Colorado where he served as senior vice president of the Power, Energy and Utilities Division of CoBank, one of the largest private providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy. Both organizations have longstanding relationships with Tri-State. In that capacity, he had spent more than a decade providing analysis for Basin Electric, according to Cooperative.com.
“Todd joins our leadership team at a pivotal moment in Tri-State’s energy transition,” said Duane Highley, Tri-State CEO. “Todd is an expert financial strategist with a deep commitment to the cooperative business model, and will help us optimize our financial portfolio to preserve power affordability, invest in reliable and cleaner resources, and drive greater value for our members.”
In a press release, Telesz said Tri-State “is well positioned financially to advance its energy transition, ensuring affordable wholesale rates and meeting the needs of our members.”
Tri-State announced in August 2023 that Pat Bridges, senior vice president and chief financial officer since 2008, would retire in March 2024. Telesz and Bridges will work together in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.
“Through a period of significant growth, Pat ensured our success as we invested in the resources that have kept our power supply reliable, affordable and responsible,” said Highley. “Pat will leave Tri-State financially strong and prepared for the future. We wish Pat the very best in retirement.”
Fort Collins utility manager leaves post. Does dispute about natural gas have anything to do with it?
Kendall Minor, the director of Fort Collins Utilities for nearly two years, has left the position, prompting speculation among opponents of potential plans for construction of a natural gas plant.
Platte River Power Authority, the wholesale provider for Fort Collins and three other Front Range cities and towns, has been studying what to do in anticipation of the closing of Rawhide, its coal-fired power plant, by 2030. Directors from the four municipalities have agreed to begin the permitting process necessary to build a gas plant but have not actually authorized that plan.
Opponents have objected strenuously, most notably in a presentation before the Fort Collins City Council during December. They have argued that Platte River can meet peak demands, whether on hot summer days or windless winter days, without adding new natural gas.
Xcel Energy also wants to build new natural gas generation for the same purpose, and the three Colorado Public Utilities Commission members have concluded broadly that Xcel will be justified in doing so. Tri-State similarly wants to add new natural gas generation as it prepares to close its coal burning units in Craig. The expectation, at least in the case of the Xcel plants, is that they will be used rarely.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that the city issued a statement that said Minor and Kelly DiMartino, the city manager, “mutually agreed that a change of direction is needed at Fort Collins Utilities.” The newspaper cited other controversies beyond that involving natural gas.
Each of the four municipalities have two representatives on the board of directors for Platte River, typically the mayor and the utilities director. Fort Collins is represented by Jeni Arndt, the mayor, and will also be represented by Tyler Marr, the deputy city manager who is the acting director of utilities.
Megan Gilman gets another PUC term, into 2028
Megan Gilman has been appointed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to serve on the Public Utilities Commission for another four years, ending in January 2028. She was appointed in M arch 2020.
Polis also announced the appointment of Bonnie Trowbridge of Berthoud to serve on the Utilities Consumer Council, replacing Susan McFaddin of Fort Collins.
Feds foster innovations in cold-climate heat pumps
Bosch, Daikin, Midea, and Johnson Controls have joined in the next phase of a federal program expected to involve the installation and monitoring of more than 23 heat-pump prototypes in various cold-climate locations throughout the United States and Canada during the next year.
They join four existing partners: Lennox International, Carrier, Trane Technology, and Rheem.
The U.S. Department of Energy said these additional companies had produced heat pump prototypes that can deliver 100% heating capacity without the use of auxiliary heat and with significantly higher efficiencies at 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
DOE Is now turning to partnering states, utilities, and others that had originally committed to participation in the DOE’s Cold-Climate Heat Pump Challenge.
“Deploying next-generation technologies like heat pumps is critical to the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to ensure that Americans have access to more affordable clean heating and cooling options – no matter where they live,” said Jennifer Granholm, the secretary of energy.
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