Pueblo, Colorado, is in many ways a vision of times past. The steel mill that the city was built around looms over downtown. Unions are big, newspapers are small, and locals are dedicated to their old watering holes. But in this union town that has often been seen as a bellwether of politics, change is coming.
In the next few years, the steel mill could be powered by renewable energy from solar panels and battery storage right down the road. Two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo could be shutting down early in favor of renewable energy — and if it happens, energy customers will save money because of it.
How is this all possible? It’s happening because of the Colorado Energy Plan, a proposal to shut down two coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable energy like wind and solar that will save customers money and clean our air. The plan is being proposed by Xcel Energy, the state’s largest energy provider, and is being considered by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Today, Xcel Energy submitted to the PUC its plan to create a cleaner energy mix in Colorado. Their plan, called the 120-day report, outlines a few options for energy portfolios to replace the coal-fired power plants they’re closing. The preferred option — the one most likely to happen — is even better than we’d hoped.
The energy portfolio includes:
Closing down two coal-fired power plants
in Pueblo ten years ahead of schedule, which will cut out 4.5 million tons of carbon pollution each year.
Saving an estimated $213 million for energy consumers
The renewable energy in this plan is cheaper than running the old coal plants — they were the cheapest bids ever seen in the U.S. — even with the costs of building solar arrays and wind turbines!
Replacing coal power
with 707 megawatts (MW) of solar, 1131 MW of wind, 275 MW of battery storage, and 383 MW of existing natural gas.
Exceeding the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES)
Under this plan, Xcel is on track to expand its portfolio of renewables to 55%, compared to the current 29% renewables.
No new natural gas
The 383 MW of gas is from existing gas plants that Xcel plans to acquire, so no new gas plants will be built to meet the plan.
A lot of battery storage
This plan includes the single biggest storage acquisition in the country (one bid for 125 MW of storage); it will single-handedly double the amount of battery storage currently under contract in the U.S.
Cutting Xcel’s total carbon pollution by 59 percent
(based on 2005 levels)! With this significant reduction, Colorado is addressing climate change to ensure our state is preserved for future generations.
Giving Pueblo a boost
While closing down coal plants does mean that some jobs will be lost, this plan makes sure that three of the solar projects and two of the storage projects are located in Pueblo County. This should mean that there are positive tax impacts on the county, and many workers will find new opportunities in the clean energy economy.
In short, this is a truly transformative plan that will establish Colorado as a national leader on clean energy. Xcel customers will benefit from lower energy costs while Coloradans will enjoy cleaner air.
But right now, this plan is just that—a plan. It won’t become reality unless it’s approved by the Public Utilities Commission. Conservation Colorado members urged the PUC to allow Xcel to create this plan, sending in nearly 10,000 comments (more than have ever been sent in to the commissioners). Now the plan has been created, and we need the PUC to approve it.
Add your voice to the thousands of Coloradans who support bringing more clean energy online: submit a comment to the PUC now before their decision on September 4th!