Five Years of Recovery and Building Resilience

The five year anniversary of the 2013 Front Range Floods is here, and offers a moment of reflection for how resiliency has evolved on the local and regional level since that time. In the first of a two-part series, we explore Manitou Springs’ story of how their planning was put to the test this summer.


The Wakeup Call

In the fall of 2013, an atmospheric river of precipitation stretched from the Gulf of California to Colorado, depositing tropic moisture in dramatic fashion. A year’s worth of rainfall fell within days in some areas. The flooding that ensued resulted in the loss of 10 lives, dramatic evacuation of 18,000, and over $3.9 billion in damages -- $2.1 of which was due to impaired or destroyed infrastructure. What became known as the 2013 Front Range Floods served as a wakeup call for many communities, underlying the importance of resiliency planning and helped focused federal, state and local resources around preparedness. In Manitou Springs, the burn scar from the year prior’s Waldo Canyon Fire compounded the impact of the weather system.


“The series of flooding events over the course of the summer of 2013 was a real impetus to look at hazard mitigation in a more organized fashion,” said Karen Berchtold, Manitou Springs’ Senior Planner for Long-range Planning and Sustainability. “Community leaders and DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) were talking about city comprehensive planning, how all of these issues are interrelated, and ways to make sure we don’t increase our hazard risk.”

Resilience Planning and Tools

From 2014 through 2017, those conversations led to the integration of Hazard Mitigation Plan as a part of Manitou Springs’ Comprehensive Plan. This work includes a Flood Control Master Plan, a Community Wildfire Protection Plan which is still underway, and the development of educational materials on geological, fire and flood hazards. The process was about “putting together some of the big picture pieces of how to move forward with multi-hazard scenario planning,” said Berchtold.

To assist with the effort, Manitou took advantage of participating in the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program funded pilot with DOLA to “figure out how they could create a framework and develop tools for communities to address hazards on their own, rather than directly supporting impacted communities.” The program was led by a steering committee and was tested across several communities. The Planning for Hazards guide is now available online and has a host of land-use tools to identify various hazards.

Impacts from July’s Flood

On July 23rd of this year, Manitou Springs experienced a sudden, heavy rainstorm which turned roadways into rivers. The event resulted in $1.5 million in damages, but it could have been much worse. Thanks to the resiliency planning, Manitou had prioritized projects to address highly vulnerable infrastructure including redesigning a drainage gulch and replacing a well water line where some sections were still made of wooden pipe. Thus, the story didn’t become about a vital access road washing out nor the loss of drinking water.

The flood event also was a learning opportunity for the community. Berchtold explained, “the flooding put into focus the need to develop better tools to address drainage in the development process, but also the need to move forward with guidance for homeowners and property owners.” Much of the runoff came from private properties, so in addition to having guidance for wildfire mitigation, the city will be working on providing flooding guidance moving forward.

Advice for other Municipalities

When asked for her advice for other municipalities, Karen gave several insights:

  • On engagement: “It’s really important to frame the discussion in a way that’s relevant to people. Start with the basics which are integral to your community’s economic health.”

  • On keeping resiliency a priority: “Communities that have experienced a series of disaster events sort of go through cycles of real concern, dealing with the impact, dealing with the recovery, but they also can get a little weary of it and push it to the back burner. It’s important to keep the message alive, but in tangible ways that is helpful for people. For us, educational guidance and tools for property owners is a really good means of doing that.” Karen also mentioned creating opportunities of engagement can useful reminders, like volunteer events to assist homeowners in managing vegetation and chipper days for wildfire mitigation. “Keeping to basic tools is really important.”

  • On limited resources: “All these things will take a lot of staff resources, but they are really critical.” Manitou Springs has a very involved citizenry, utilizes private-public partnerships to try new ideas, and continually explore grants and opportunities that have multiple benefits.


In the November newsletter part two will explore the evolution of the Colorado Resiliency Office, the upcoming resources they’re working on, and how you can help.

Colorado Utility News Roundup

By: Sara Vargo

The last several weeks have seen an unprecedented amount of activity in the Colorado energy utility space. The ENGAGE Delta County initiative held an energy conference in Paonia on September 17-18, then followed by the Rocky Mountain Utilities Exchange Summit which was held in Aspen September 19-21. Also on September 19th, Holy Cross Energy committed to 70% renewable energy and 70% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030, and on October 2nd, Fort Collins committed to 100% renewable energy. Each activity continues to demonstrate Colorado’s growing momentum and dedication for a renewable energy future.

Here are a few more details about these exciting developments with insights from some of our members:

2018 ENGAGE Energy Conference 

On September 18th, Delta County ENGAGE and Delta County Economic Development hosted the second annual ENGAGE Energy Conference in Paonia, CO.  Building on the momentum established last year at the inaugural event, the conference this year focused on the rapidly changing wholesale power markets that are being driven by cheap natural gas and the rapidly declining cost of renewable energy resources.

Tom Plant of the Center for the New Energy Economy delivered the keynote address where he provided a historical overview of the energy markets that underscored the rapid changes that have turned the industry upside down in the last few years.  Few people forecasted the rapid decline in the cost of renewable generation resources and this, coupled with a growing demand for mitigation of climate impacting greenhouse gasses, has driven a spike into utility resource planning programs.

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Chris Riley of Guzman Energy followed with a presentation outlining the opportunity that exists to capitalize on this widening gap between utility rates and the wholesale market.

Paul Fenn of Local Power introduced the audience to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which allows individuals and communities to aggregate their buying power and source energy from alternatives to the traditional investor owned utility. CCA legislation is expected to come to Colorado one day and its potential impact will be significant.

Larry Atencio of Pueblo spoke about the City of Pueblo’s efforts to change its energy supply to lower costs and provide more “energy justice” to income qualified individuals, while also lowering emissions.

Mark Dyson of the Rocky Mountain Institute followed with a rigorous discussion surrounding the opportunity for Western region utilities to innovate towards a least cost future.  No longer is this a future dream, recent bids for renewable energy resources have demonstrated that these resources are now cheaper than alternative fossil fuel based resources.

For those that are interested, the presentations from the event can be downloaded at: https://engagedeltacounty.org/2018-conference/


Rocky Mountain Utilities Exchange

The 12th Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange (formerly the Colorado Utility Efficiency Exchange) occurred September 19-21st in Aspen.

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The forum was a networking and professional development opportunity for roughly 150 utility and government organization staff, along with trade allies who provided products and services to support utility customer programs.

The conference was broken into general and breakout session interactions, as well as numerous networking opportunities. Themes explored included energy, renewable energy, demand response, water efficiency, and customer management. The general, breakout, and poster sessions acted to examine case study best practices and address lessons learned from those who develop, implement, and evaluate utility customer programs.

On Friday September 21st, one breakout session led by the Compact of Colorado Communities, “Community Goals Meet Utility Realities,” covered many challenges Colorado utility’s face. In it, they presented feedback from communities working to advance clean energy on the challenges and opportunities they see with regard to working with utilities and gathered similar input when it comes to working with communities. Participants also engaged in a roleplay activity to explore diverse perspectives from town managers, activists, utility directors, and more while gathering feedback on what best practices can help foster an effective dialogue between utilities and communities.

Our goal was to gather your feedback and recommendations for communities interested in better collaboration with utilities.  Some best practice recommendations emerged on ways to build trust and set up a process for effective community-utility cooperation:

  • Start building trust by identifying easy wins first

    • Local governments help advertise utility efficiency and demand-site management programs, or help identify land to site renewable systems

    • Utilities can likewise help local governments with data, recommendations and advice; strategies based on currently available programs and opportunities

    • Look for “win-win” opportunities for all parties

  • Establish a relationship, and commit for the long haul

    • Don’t wait until someone complains about something; don’t start the relationship on the wrong foot.  Be proactive.

    • Engage the next generation – those choices made now will impact them for years to come

    • Recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight.   It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Commit to running it together.  

    • Try to create direct relationships for lasting change (concern about over-reliance on consultants who may look to collect & move on) 

    • “Put skin in the game” 

    • Consider an MOU announcing mutual goals the city & utility will work toward – this establishes a framework for cooperation and goals, roles, and responsibilities for each 

  • Identify common values

    • In initial meetings, work to establish an agreed-upon statement of shared values

    • Use these as a guiding light & look for opportunities to expand the impact and message

    • Try a role swap 

  • Share success

    • Involve each other in goal setting and share successes

    • Celebrate one another’s achievements

    • Consider joint (or jointly timed) press releases marking significant milestones

For more information, the latest news and to get involved next year, stay tuned with UtilityExchange.org.


Holy Cross Energy Commits to 70% Clean Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Goals

Holy Cross Energy announced its plan to shift power supplies away from coal and increase its use of renewable energy to 70% by the year 2030. The Glenwood Springs based electric cooperative says the plan would lead to a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 2014 levels.

These shifts will not increase in the costs of the power supply.

Holy Cross Energy released a fact sheet complementing the news release with highlights including developing at least one utility scale clean energy project every three years starting in 2020, continued purchasing of power from local renewable energy providers (currently 13% of its power supply), and a goal of adding at least 2 megawatts of new rooftop solar each year on members’ homes and businesses.

When asked for his advice for fellow Compact members in this process, Holy Cross Energy board member Dave Munk shared, “The best and first place to start is with your local utility - tell them where you’re trying to go. It’s even better if you can involve them in the early stages of developing your climate goals. Utilities are more receptive to the interests of their customers or members than ever before. Building a good, collaborative working relationship is the best way to achieve your goals, no matter what type of utility you have.”

Dave also emphasized, “Keep in mind Holy Cross’s ability to achieve our goals is heavily based on our power supply agreement because it’s more flexible than most. Not everyone can look at our new GHG goals and turn to their utility expecting something similar… Utilities are increasingly receptive [to climate and renewable goals], though each has its own limitations to account for.”

For additional insights, check out Joe Smyth’s article at Clean Cooperative.


Fort Collins Commits to 100% Renewable Energy

On October 2nd The City of Fort Collins made a community-wide commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity by the year 2030. During deliberation, the council chambers were filled with supporters wearing shirts or holding signs for 100%. The plan sets a 100 percent renewable energy goal with a caveat that the resolution doesn’t sacrifice affordability or reliability to customers and includes annual status updates.

Fort Collins City Council voted in favor of the plan 6-1. It will be the 9th Colorado city to make such a pledge including Aspen, Breckenridge, Boulder, Denver, Lafayette, Longmont, Nederland, and Pueblo.


The council member, Ken Summers, that voted against the plan said even he was ‘optimistic’. Summers has solar panels on his own home and supports renewable energy use statewide. His vote ‘no’ was simply out of concern for such an aspirational goal to be reached within the given time frame and that failing to meet that goal would appear to be a broken promise to the city and the state.

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The plan sets a 100 percent renewable energy goal with a caveat that the resolution doesn’t sacrifice affordability or reliability to customers and includes annual status updates.

"I think this is very achievable,” Ross Cunniff, another Fort Collins Council Member said, “The other thing is we're not prescribing what to do. Instead, we're directing city staff to work with PRPA to create a plan to get there."


For more information, visit the Coloradan.


Colorado Springs Approves Plans for 150 MW Solar and Storage Project

On September 19th, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board approved plans for a 150 MW solar and storage project. The facility is expected to be operational by 2024, and will help the utility produce over a fifth of its electricity from renewable energy by then.

“This is the future,” board member Richard Skorman said. “This is getting to be more and more of a solution for community after community and we’re sitting her arguing over 13 cents. … We’re going to do something many people in our community want us to do. We are a citizen’s utility for this purpose.”

Learn more on this development at the Gazette.

Colorado has long been a leader in energy development; the landscape has offered many possibilities for energy production, both renewable and non-renewable, over the years. As greener practices are becoming not only more attractive but more affordable, Colorado leads the way, closely following in California’s footsteps in becoming one of the nations green energy leaders.

We can’t wait to see what Colorado utilities will continue impress us with!

Q&A with Xcel Energy: Discussing the Colorado Energy Plan

Kelly Flenniken the Area Manager for Xcel Energy, Colorado, answers our questions about the Colorado Energy Plan.

What is the Colorado Energy Plan?

The Colorado Energy Plan is Xcel Energy’s roadmap to develop a cleaner energy mix and reduce carbon emissions. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the plan in August 2018.

The plan will invest $2.5 billion in eight counties, to add more than 1,100 megawatts of wind generation, more than 700 MW of large-scale solar, and 275 MW of battery storage. The Plan will also retire two coal-fired generation units in Pueblo, and acquire 375 MW of existing natural gas generation, to support reliability.

Best of all, we plan to do this while keeping customers’ bills low: we estimate that customers will save more than $200 million as a result of this plan.

How does the Colorado Energy Plan help reduce emissions?

Under the Colorado Energy Plan, by 2026, we will achieve nearly 55 percent renewable energy on our power grid. We will reduce carbon emissions in Colorado by about 60 percent from 2005 levels, and cut NO2 and Sox emissions by 90 percent.

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Our carbon story is among the best in the country. It’s important to note that Xcel Energy is developing renewable energy for all our customers, not just the ones who are motivated by sustainability. We are already delivering more than 28 percent renewable energy to every customer in Colorado.

What are the resources Xcel Energy provides to support communities’ renewable and emission targets?

The Partners in Energy program puts Xcel Energy’s expertise in energy efficiency and resource planning to work with communities across Colorado. These two-year collaborations, offered free to any community in our service area, include forming a team of stakeholders, developing a six-month assessment and Energy Action Plan, and 18 months of implementation.

For example, Garfield County’s partnership includes six communities, public entities, clean energy advocates, bankers and contractors. Also participating were three other energy companies that serve the area: Black Hills Energy, Holy Cross Energy and Glenwood Springs Electric. Together they built a one-stop solution that offers energy assessments, rebate info and financing for any home or business in Garfield County.

Are there other programs that are relevant to municipalities taking action on climate change?

This year Xcel Energy launched a new program, Energy Future Collaborations, a flexible framework to advance communities’ energy needs and goals. The collaborations acknowledge that it is better for the company and communities to work together on the many areas upon which we agree, rather than being limited by things on which we disagree. Encouraging the CPUC to approve the Colorado Energy Plan is just one example.

After a nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding is executed, the parties develop a work plan that can include existing programs, new solutions, or potential public-private partnerships. So far eight communities have signed MOUs, starting with Breckenridge in January.

With Energy Future Collaborations, Xcel Energy can nurture relationships with community leaders and stakeholders, while they gain a better understanding of our business and regulatory environment. We hope to create transformative solutions while building a supportive statewide network of problem-solvers.

Letter from Daniel Kreeger

Dear Compact Members -

It’s an exciting time for Colorado communities and for ACCO. With the approval of the Colorado Energy Plan and Governor Hickenlooper’s order on low-emission vehicles, Colorado is taking big steps toward a clean energy future.

Within the Compact, we have a number of exciting developments:

  • Compact Member Bulletin — We have officially launched a monthly newsletter thanks to the great work of Bryce Carter and Sara Vargo — feel free to send them your ideas for future stories, or even contribute a story yourself!

  • Colorado Communities Cooperative Launch Meeting — The Compact and State of Colorado will team up to form a cooperative that is designed to facilitate collaboration on the action items stemming from the Colorado Communities Symposium earlier this year. Please be sure to review the action items and sign up for the October 16 launch meeting in Westminster.

  • Clean Energy Means Business — The Compact will be teaming up with the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) for the Clean Energy Means Business conference on November 12-13 in Denver. ACCO will be producing a formal training on procuring clean energy for legal, finance and procurement professionals that will be embedded within this event — this will be a great opportunity for you to build capacity on scaling up clean energy in your community!

  • Staff Training Requirements — The steering committee has adopted the staff training requirements and members are beginning to leverage the online training resources that ACCO has made available — please feel free to schedule an appointment with me so we can walk you through the requirements.

  • Training for Elected Officials — Last week, a group of Compact members joined ACCO members from Maryland and Florida to begin shaping a curriculum for elected officials and city/county managers — we hope to have this curriculum completed by the end of the year. Compact members Lucinda Smith (Fort Collins), Dick White (Durango), Anita Seitz (Westminster) and Ron LeBlanc (Durango). If you would like to join this group, please contact me.

COMING SOON!

  • Workshop on Climate Preparedness in Critical Infrastructure Sectors — ACCO will be hosting a half-day workshop in January 2019 to present findings from our research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and collect feedback in order to report back. An announcement and invitations will be distributed in the coming weeks.

  • Upgraded Learning Management System — Our new director of credentialing and training programs, Paul Miller, is working on building a new learning management system. We’ll be unveiling this resource by early November, which will facilitate collaboration within the learning environment for Compact members.

As you can see, you’ll be seeing a substantial ramp up in our work together … we look forward to working with you and advancing your communities capacity to drive bold climate change initiatives!

Best regards,

Daniel Kreeger
Executive Director
Association of Climate Change Officers

Q&A with Jonathan Koehn, Regional Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Boulder

Q&A with Boulder’s Jonathan Koehn on 5th Annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Conference plus more


In September, Boulder hosted a meeting of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, bringing together international leaders in local climate action. Boulder’s Regional Sustainability Coordinator, Jonathan Koehn, discussed the event and his city’s role as a climate leader.


How has Boulder become a hub for international climate science?

It’s a combination of the area’s natural beauty, research institutions and a public that really stands behind this important topic. Certainly, the community has long been concerned with preserving nature, which is best exemplified in the beautiful open space that surrounds the city. But the presence of the federal labs like NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the University of Colorado has attracted world-class climate researchers from across the globe.

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What is the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, and what was on the agenda for the recent meeting in Boulder?

Boulder recently hosted the 5th annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) annual meeting, with representatives from 22 of the world’s leading cities in climate action. Cities attending included Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, Yokohama, New York City, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Oslo and many other leading global cities, all of whom have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by 80% or more by 2050.


It was such a remarkable honor to host some of the leading cities working on climate issues. During the week-long summit, we got a chance to discuss the great ideas, policies and projects other cities are working on. For instance, I learned about Vancouver’s impressive efforts to bring renewable transportation options to their residents and businesses. We also hosted a town hall which is available to watch at www.etown.org/live.


What resources and support can Boulder offer other municipalities in Colorado looking to tackle implications of climate change?

There is a growing recognition that cities and towns are on the front lines when it comes to a changing climate. In Colorado, these changes are affecting our fragile high-altitude ecosystems and hit at the heart of our communities’ local economies, affecting roads and bridges, parks and forests, buildings, farming and agriculture, the ski industry, and public open space. This is a crisis that will affect our food, our national security, our water, our ability to live where we choose, and other basic human needs. Whether and how we address global warming is not a question of science, it's a question of values.

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These challenges we face are so much bigger than any one community. While we will continue to share our experiences and lessons, we believe that the most effective actions are those we implement together. With a focus on training and program design, the Colorado Compact is creating vital local opportunities, while the Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA) is focusing on climate policy reform. These two coalitions are leading the way, and thanks to the leadership from all of the involved jurisdictions, we will create and implement new ways to stabilize the climate, while improving the health, safety and economic productivity of our communities. 

I welcome the opportunity to share Boulder’s experiences. Folks are welcome to email me at koehnj@bouldercolorado.gov and I’d love to connect.

Colorado Progresses On Low Emission Vehicle Standards

By: Bryce Carter

On August 16th the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission unanimously agreed to develop a rule to meet California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard to be considered for review in November. In front of an overflowing hearing of mostly supporters, the Commission also agreed to investigate a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard with a requirement for manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles with potential penalties for not meeting targets. These decisions come after Governor Hickenlooper instructed for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to write language for the Commission to consider after the Trump Administration’s announcement to pursue rolling back the goals of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.

  Four Tesla Electric Vehicles at Columbus, Texas, Supercharger.    Ed Uthman   , Flickr

Four Tesla Electric Vehicles at Columbus, Texas, Supercharger. Ed Uthman, Flickr

Background of CAFE and Proposed Changes

The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the new CAFE standards in April of this year, setting out to curtail benchmarks established during the Obama administration. The proposal will reduce the regulatory standard from 54.5 miles per gallon per fleet average by 2025 to leveling out at 37 miles per gallon in 2020, including the use of credit trading for manufacturers to meet goals. According to EPA documentation, this year’s regulatory compliance target is 38.3 miles per gallon. Credits from electric vehicles have helped meet these targets, with Tesla alone having likely sold more than $700 million worth of credits by mid-2017.

The agencies have cited unrealistic goals and public safety for the reasoning behind this change. The proposed rulemaking is focused around several highly questionable if not bizzare claims including:

  • newer vehicle models may be lightweighted which increases the likelihood for on-road fatalities,

  • lower gas mileage results in higher fuel costs and thus less driving,

  • the upfront cost-savings for less fuel efficient vehicles allows for a greater turnover for newer vehicle purchases with advanced safety features,

  • and there would be no noticeable impact on overall emissions.

Of course many of these claims are being debated, and California has taken a lead with an 18-state coalition lawsuit against the proposed changes.

Why California Standards?

A unique regulatory loophole has allowed for two parallel vehicle emission standards to exist between the federal government and the state of California. A waiver was afforded by Congress in the Clean Air Act to support California to address the then-unique difficulties the state faced with smog pollution at the time. This resulted in the eventual creation of California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Standards, pollution safeguards now adopted by 13 other states representing 40% of the American population. Some automakers had faced tremendous pressure and political contention to meet these dueling standards (the aforementioned Tesla excluded), but this was relieved when they were virtually aligned once again with the Obama administration’s update to federal CAFE minimums. In addition to significantly reducing these federal minimums, the Trump Administration is seeking to also withdraw California’s waiver.

EVs are Essential to Colorado’s Climate Commitment

Colorado became a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance last year, committing to meet the Paris Climate Agreement of a 26% reduction of statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. Governor Hickenlooper has stated the current fuel standards are essential to meeting this goal, and ordered the state to work toward adopting the California LEV by the end of the year assuming the federal standard will be rolled back. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, adoption of the California LEV would cost consumers an additional $954 per vehicle, but save $3,412 through fuel efficiency over its lifetime. In addition, statewide greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 2 million tons by 2030.

Public advocacy from the Commission’s hearing resulted in a separate consideration for adopting California’s zero-emission electric vehicle standard, requiring vehicle manufacturers to sell a certain amount of EV cars and trucks through a credit system or face penalties. Whether or not a ZED Standard is created, Colorado has already established itself as a national leader for electric vehicles from its favorable tax credits to rapidly expanding infrastructure. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will consider the LEV Standard in November, and hold an initial proceeding for the ZEV standard in December followed by a potential rulemaking for it in March 2019.

Colorado Energy Plan Approval Will Mean New Renewable Energy Investments in Rural Colorado

By: Joe Smyth

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan yesterday, greenlighting the plan to close two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo Colorado, and replace that power with a mix of new renewable energy and battery storage projects along with existing natural gas plants.

Xcel Energy’s plan attracted national attention this year due to the proposals for large scale battery storage projects and unprecedented bids for cheap new wind and solar energy. In Colorado, the plan attracted support from labor, business, environmental, and community organizations, thanks to its expected economic and health benefits.

A report this week from the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that closing the two coal units would reduce air pollutants in Pueblo and Colorado, leading to fewer asthma attacks, emergency rooms visits, and other health problems. A June report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the plan would create hundreds of new jobs, boost local tax revenue, and provide a net positive economic impact to the state - mostly by avoiding nearly $1 billion in coal purchases from Wyoming.

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Rural Colorado counties have recently attracted new jobs from renewable energy projects, and Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Colorado Energy Plan will lead to another $2.5 billion investment and further expansion of those industries, particularly in Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Weld, Baca, and Pueblo counties.

Commissioners from several counties in Colorado’s Eastern Plains wrote to the Public Utilities Commission to highlight the economic benefits of the Colorado Energy Plan in the region:

The corollary economic impact on Colorado’s rural counties cannot be understated. Rural Colorado is proud to be a leader in renewable energy production, delivering reliable energy resources that support competitive energy rates across the state. The increase in renewable energy projects in rural communities has had a significant positive impact on our local economies. These economic benefits extend well beyond the short-term construction phase. The long-term assets proposed for construction increase the local tax base which helps fund local services, public safety, schools, and libraries. The projects provide desirable and high paying jobs that keeps local workers in our communities and drive new vocational training at local community colleges. For projects on private land, local land owners receive stable long-term lease payments that reduce reliance on erratic commodity prices.

Other utilities in the Rocky Mountain region could also reduce costs by replacing coal plants with a mix of new renewable energy projects and market purchases. A report from Rocky Mountain Institute last week found that Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association could save its 43 member cooperatives over $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy, and the Denver Post reported that “Tri-State officials planned to meet in Denver on Thursday to discuss boosting the use of renewable energy sources.”  

A report from Energy Strategies also found that Pacificorp could reduce costs for its customers by closing higher cost coal units, including the Craig and Hayden coal plants in Colorado, in favor of new wind energy projects. Other utilities in Colorado like Platte River Power Authority and Black Hills Energy are also planning new wind energy projects as a way to reduce costs.

And Xcel Energy itself could pursue a broader transition away from coal - Executive Vice President David Eves said at a conference this year that the Pueblo coal units "will not be the last coal plant we retire early."

Article used with permission from Joe Smyth, read it and more reactions to the Public Utilities Commission approval of the Colorado Energy Plan at CleanCooperative.com.