Get Big Pivots


Colorado has a new greenhouse gas reduction plan. Enviro groups say hurry up; one electric utility says slow down!


by Allen Best

On Feb. 27, only minutes after the Polis administration released the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Roadmap 2.0, a consortium of Colorado’s most powerful environmental groups posted a statement that took issue with the plan.

Colorado, they said, is almost certainly falling short of its greenhouse reduction goals for 2025 and with little time to make corrections necessary to achieve the 2030 goal of 50% economy-wide reductions.

“While the updated roadmap would move the state closer to its targets, it is not designed for the task at hand: meeting Colorado’s legislative mandated climate reduction goals,” said the statement from the Environmental Defense Fund, Western Resource Advocates, and the Sierra Club.

It added this tart note that suggests real heartburn: Colorado needs stronger leadership to deliver the climate action Coloradans have demanded.

It took several days, but Travas Deal, the chief executive of Colorado Springs Utilities, posted a statement that suggested Colorado is moving too fast.

“With one-party control in the Colorado legislature and influential environmental voices, this week’s update is an indication that the state will continue to place pressure on a variety of industries – including energy providers like us – to further reduction of carbon emissions, discontinue the use of fossil fuels like coal and embrace more renewable energy.”

Then came the direct pushback against the goal of 100% clean electric generation by 2040.

“While well-intentioned, we believe this would place unprecedented financial burdens on customers, while jeopardizing service reliability for our community and military installations. For these reasons, it is not a direction we support, and we will do everything possible to change this expectation.”

Travas Deal

Travas Deal

Deal, in an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette published several days later, said that CSU’s decision to close the aging Martin Drake Power Plant in 2022 and replace it with temporary gas turbines and the plans to close the Ray Nixon Power plant by 2030 were driven by the state’s greenhouse gas goals adopted in 2019.

“We knew it was going to be costly, but we complied, and we’re well on our way to an 80% reduction by 2030,” Deal said.

This next step, he said, comes too quickly for Colorado Springs. “We would have wanted a little more time. … We don’t have the technology for that yet, and the financial impacts are going to be extreme.”

Deal estimated that getting to 80% reductions by closing the coal plants will cost Colorado Springs ratepayers “well over $1 billion.” To get to 96% carbon reduction would cost another $244 million.

In talking about the cost of abandoning coal, Deal departs from conventional wisdom that renewables actually save utilities money – at least to a point.

But even strong advocates have long said that the stretch from 85% to 95% will be far more difficult — and expensive. Consider Bryan Hannegan, who is leading Holy Cross Energy on its mission to achieve 100%. He has consistently warned of greater expense in the final stretch.

The Colorado Energy Office said much the same thing in response to Deal’s complaint:

“The reality is that renewable energy saves Coloradans money and protects the future of our state, which is why Gov. Polis and his administration have made Colorado a national model for clean energy work.”

The state agency also said that Department of Defense — a huge presence in the Colorado Springs area— believes that clean energy is an affordable and important contributor to national security through diversity of supply and reduced exposure to global fossil fuel prices and volatile markets. It also cited a 2022 study that, as reported by Fox News, found that Colorado had among the cheapest electricity in the nation, behind only Utah and Wyoming.

The Colorado Energy Office said that the Polis administration plans to launch an analysis of policy and technical pathways to use clean energy to secure and harden military installations in Colorado.

Top The Martin Drake Power Plant near downtown Coloirado Springs. ceased coal combustion in 2022 and is now being dismantled. Photo/Allen Best

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