Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, announced an ambitious plan Tuesday to slash carbon emissions from its electrical generation by 80 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, and emit zero carbon emissions across the eight states where it operates by 2050.
The industry-first initiative comes in direct response to climate change, said Ben Fowke, CEO of the Minneapolis-based company. He emphasized that affordability and reliability are key in achieving the goals.
“This risk of climate change isn’t going away and we want to be the company that does something about it and hopefully inspire others to do something about it too,” Fowke told reporters while in Colorado to announce the major initiative.
At the same time, however, Fowke acknowledged that the technologies are not yet available on the commercial scale to actually reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan is based on the hope that new technology will be developed in time to make reaching the aspirational goal possible.
“If we put our minds to it,” Fowke said, “we will find the best solution to get us there.”That could include everything from carbon capture to nuclear energy and potentially state-level legislation giving Xcel the ability to add “research and design” on top of its work generating power. It’s notable that Xcel is aiming for zero carbon emissions and not 100 percent renewable energy generation, suggesting that carbon capture is expected to play a significant role in the plan.
Xcel’s bold move — the company says it’s the most ambitious announced to date within the electric-power industry — comes after Gov.-elect Jared Polis ran a campaign on a platform that included moving Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. It also comes as Democrats prepare to take control of the state legislature when it reconvenes in January and plan to introduce a slate of measures to reduce carbon emissions in Colorado and boost renewable energy generation.
“It’s not only about carbon; it’s also about cleaner air, which means people will be healthier,” Polis said at an event Tuesday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science celebrating Xcel’s pledge.
He added: “We’re showing the country the way.”
Josie and Daniel Jahnke are passionately in opposition to the proposed 100-megawatt Stem Beach Solar Energy project.
When they spoke to Pueblo County Commissioners Terry Hart and Garrison Ortiz on Wednesday, they pleaded with the two men to deny a 1041 Permit submitted by Invenergy to construct the 700-acre project near Stem Beach.
The decision remains up in the air as the commissioners wade through all the testimony presented in the last several months. The decision was not made during a hearing Wednesday because Commissioner Sal Pace was unable to attend. He was working in his position on Gov.-elect Jared Polis’ transition team.
The commissioners have scheduled a meeting on Dec. 12 to render a decision.
“I have lived a life of service, so why is this important?” said Josie Jahnke, a retired first sergeant combat veteran.
“It was my choice to defend my country so that you guys can come and build industrial sites. So you all could come and make millions of dollars while I carve myself a meager little living.”
The couple, who live in the St. Charles River Estates near the proposed site of the project, came out against the project along with more than a dozen other concerned neighbors during the nearly three-hour hearing.
Josie Jahnke claims the project would cost her family $350,000 in property values. She and other speakers said the proposed project would bein the wrong place and wanted it to be moved across Interstate 25 near the already visible industrial area.
The company said that would cost $800,000 more for the change. Company officials said that for solar development, you want to be as close to substations and existing facilities as you can and the current proposal meets those conditions.
“I have to bring in the human factor, because you can’t pay for my life. $800,000 doesn’t pay for you to come near to the service that I have provided for each and every one of you,” Josie Jahnke said.
Her husband, also a military veteran, said their house is the closest to the project.
“Every cent that we had, we put into that house,” Daniel Jahnke said.
Jahnke said he never received notification about the project.
A large contingent of those in opposition also aired their concern about the use of lithium ion batteries and the dangers they may cause to the environment as well as the “large fire danger they would bring.”
The project calls for lithium batteries for the solar panels to be on 5 acres of the site.
“If that thing ever starts on fire with that lithium storage facility ... If that heats up and starts on fire, God forbid that we are in our beds at night and that plume starts to roll over our house with a wind shift,” he said.
Jahnke said Invenergy never completed a risk analysis. Others in the audience said Pueblo County is not ready for such a project and that there are no organized lithium battery codes and regulations set.
Ben Turner, manager of renewable development for Invenergy, said there are codes within the industry to develop projects. The codes regulate safety and are the measures a company takes to show that there is a safe project, Turner said.
The day after the Nov. 6 election, President Donald Trump called the results “a great victory” for his administration. But not too many people take that claim seriously.
In much the same way, “ban fracking everywhere” and “keep it in the ground” groups are claiming the decisive defeat of their Colorado anti-oil and gas ballot measure – Proposition 112 – wasn’t really a defeat at all.
“This fight will pay off big in the years to come!” declared Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, a fringe environmental group that compares oil and gas development to “the crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism [and] apartheid.” McKibben traveled from his home base in Vermont to personally campaign for the ballot measure and the Colorado chapter of his group has been directly involved in local and state “ban fracking” campaigns – including Prop 112 – for years.
So what’s the big payoff from losing the Prop 112 campaign, exactly?
Well, if you believe anti-oil and gas activists, they can now pressure state lawmakers into passing some version of Proposition 112, which would have dramatically widened drilling setbacks and legalized local bans on oil and natural gas development. And if they don’t like what they see, the activists working with 350.org, Food & Water Watch and other environmental activist groups say they will push yet another ballot measure.
“We’ll continue to put pressure on our elected representatives so they aren’t making political calculations,” Anne Lee Foster, one of the named proponents of the failed ballot measure, told The Denver Post. “We’re definitely willing to go back to the ballot box in two years.”
Time will tell, but it’s doubtful state lawmakers will take these claims and threats from 350.org and Food & Water Watch seriously. That’s because the groups behind Prop 112 aren’t in a position to dictate terms to anybody.
Prop 112 didn’t just lose statewide in the most favorable year for progressive candidates and causes since 1936. It was crushed by wide margins in the state’s key political battlegrounds – counties that account for dozens of House and Senate seats, determine the balance of power in the legislature and decide the fate of proposed legislation.Simon Lomax contracts with the Independence Institute as an Associate Energy Policy Analyst. He is an immigrant, recovering journalist and a pro-business advocate who joined the Independence Institute as an associate energy policy analyst in late 2015. Simon has spent more than a decade tracking the political campaigns waged by national environmental groups and their impact on the nation’s energy policy.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Congressman-elect Jason Crow have gotten themselves, and the constituents they represent, into a political jam.
Both promised not to vote for Nancy Pelosi to control the U.S. House as speaker — it was a huge issue in Crow’s campaign — but now Nancy is the only one running.
What to do, what to do …
They can either break their promise, their word, and forever be labeled “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Or, they can keep their promise and make an enemy of the most powerful Democrat in Washington. Add to that mixture their alienation of the Republican president, and what happens then?
They deliver exactly squat for their district and constituents.
This might not be as big a problem for Perlmutter — no one in Washington knows who he is, anyway.
Not helping Colorado at all, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette is challenging the Democratic whip for his seat. So when she loses that bid, voters in her district will also pay the price.
PeakNation™ will recall that DeGette, a white woman who has served for 21 years, is challenging a black man who’s served for 25 years on the grounds of needed diversity and fresh leadership.
The only Democrat left in the delegation who hasn’t pissed off Democratic leaders, is incoming Congressman Joe Neguse, who was elected to fill Jared Polis’s seat.
According to Roll Call, Neguse is one of a handful of candidates nationwide who managed to escape the Pelosi question and get through the entire campaign without a single reporter getting his stance on the record.
Which puts Neguse in the awkward position of splitting with the Colorado delegation in leadership votes, or joining them in pitting newly powerful Democrats against out state.
Ironically, a talking point against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District — if Democrats take the House, the Western Slope would lose their influence and get nothing from Washington.
Luckily for the Western Slope, they ignored those whispers and now they have Tipton in the House, Republicans ruling the Senate, and a Republican president who looks favorably upon western issues.
The United States’ traditional electric grid is an engineering marvel with nearly 160,000 miles of transmission lines, millions of miles of distribution lines, and over 73,000 power plants.
It delivers power throughout all of America, and it allows us to use air conditioners in the summer and heaters in the winter. One hundred years ago, electricity was a luxury, today, it is an affordable staple and absolute necessity to power our 21stcentury economy.
But the traditional, centralized electric grid is ripe for change. Large power plants can cost up to a billion dollars to build and are often located miles from population centers. As a result, transmission lines, which cost a million dollars or more per mile, must be extraneously long in order to connect the plant with the rest of the grid. These current realities should be considered necessary evils to maintain America’s electrification, and they cost ratepayers, who are sometimes captive customers, millions every year.
Moreover, as the previous post explained, both regulation and deregulation has stifled innovation and has failed ratepayers. The status quo is either endure an esoteric, regulated model that allows utilities to manipulate the market and gouge their customers or live with a deregulated market with volatile rates.
All the while, new business platforms like Uber and Airbnb have permanently altered traditional business models that a decade ago seemed unchangeable. Economists are calling the market where these new entities operate the sharing economy, and while it may seem impossible, its next breakout platform could be the energy sector because of microgrid technology.
Microgrids are small electric grids that consist of generation sources, distribution lines, and control mechanisms that switch gears and regulate voltage. According to the Department of Energy, “A microgrid is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island-mode.”
Within the service area of a microgrid, electric generation is disseminated and owned by individuals and businesses. One household may install solar panels and batteries while another might utilize a diesel or natural gas generator. Regardless, because individuals own the generating sources, thereby decentralizing generation, massive power plants and long transmission lines are rendered obsolete and no longer needed.
Distribution lines would still be required within the “defined electrical boundary” in order to connect the participants, but without the need for large power plants and long transmission lines, infrastructure costs would drop.
From powering prisons to college campuses to neighborhoods, microgrids enable communities to be independent from central electric utilities. They’re powered by a variety of sources (generators, batteries, solar panels, etc.) and are self-sufficient systems that can act in parallel with the central grid or function autonomously.
It’s Uber for Energy, or the power sectors’ neighbor-to-neighbor economy. If you’re tired of the electricity cartel and its enablers at the Public Utilities Commission who keep customers captive, maybe it’s time to think about how you, your neighbor, and community can gain independence from Colorado’s regulated monopolies by creating your own microgrid.Amy Oliver Cooke is the Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center for the Independence Institute, Colorado's free market, state-based think tank. She has worked in both policy and operations since 2004.