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Colorado considers specialized refinancing to ease utilities’ transition from coal
A refinancing mechanism called securitization may be adopted this year by Colorado legislators as a step toward helping the state’s utility industry step away from increasingly outdated coal-fired generation assets.
Colorado co-op’s move to terminate long-term coal contract mirrors trend across western U.S.
Delta Montrose Electric Association’s exit from a long-term deal with coal-heavy Tri-State Generation & Transmission shows how renewables are “upending the economics of power production in the American West.”
Momentum toward industrial-scale solar on Navajo lands
Momentum is growing around modernizing tribal renewable-energy policies on the Navajo Nation of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, according to a new report. The shift is being driven in part by the large-scale deployment of solar generation throughout the Southwest, where Navajo lands remain something of an island in a growing regional sea of utility-scale solar installations.
In Colorado example, the shape of things to come
A western Colorado electric co-op that is seeking to sever ties with an energy supplier disproportionately reliant on coal is typical of small electricity providers nationally who are investing in other forms of generation. “You can politicize it all you want, but in the end economics is really what drives it,” said the president of the co-op. “It is really going from being a utility-defined market to a customer-defined market.”
Colorado utility moves to break contract with coal-dependent supplier
The Delta-Montrose Electric Association in western Colorado is seeking to buy out its contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a regional supplier heavily dependent on coal-fired generation. The move follows a decision by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative to pay $37 million to break its contract with Tri-State, a Denver-based company that sells electricity in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming. “I think it’s fair to say it’s economics, but also for diversification, a more diverse power supply,” said Virginia Harman, Delta-Montrose’s chief operating officer.
Legislative proposal in Colorado to hasten coal-plant retirements
A bill being considered by state legislators in Colorado would incentivize utilities to adopt a special bonding mechanism to help finance coal-plant retirements. The proposal, which would securitize debt among many investors, would include revenue earmarked for communities services affected by transition. “This is not some liberal fantasy,” says the lawmaker sponsoring the proposal. “This is all hard math.”
Xcel executive: Economics are driving power-generation shift
Three forces are driving a national shift from coal to other forms of power generation, says an executive for Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based company that provides electricity to almost for million customers through subsidiaries in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin. “It fundamentally comes down to economics,” said Jonathan Adelman, an Xcel vice president. “The secondary driver is customer expectations. Lastly, policy both at a state and federal level.”
Colorado city aims to modernize its economy around renewables
Pueblo, Colo., nicknamed “Steel City” for its industrial past, is investing in a renewable energy industry expansion around the presence of Vesta Wind Systems, a turbine-tower manufacturer that employees 4,000 people along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. Xcel Energy is pushing for approval of a power-generation transition that would include wind and solar, and several renewable energy companies are looking to move to the area because of its wind and solar resources and its proximity to major regional transmission lines. The city is “poised to become the renewable energy hub for Colorado and likely the region,” one economic-development official said.
Xcel gets the green light in Colorado to move from coal to wind and solar
Colorado regulators have approved a plan by Xcel Energy to shift to renewable energy for power production over the next few years while closing 660 megawatts of coal-fired capacity by shutting down two aging plants in Pueblo. Xcel is planning to have 1,100 megawatts of wind-powered electricity capacity online by 2027, 700 megawatts of solar, 275 megawatts of battery storage and 380 megawatts from existing natural gas sources (a megawatt is enough to power about homes). Xcel’s strategy would invest $2.5 billion in eight counties, and the company said the changes would result in $213 million in ratepayer savings.
Growing awareness in southwest U.S. of rising risk to coal-heavy economies
With the U.S. coal industry “in frank decline,” the well-being of communities in the four corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is at risk as three coal-fired plants in the region becoming increasingly uncompetitive. Activists, educators and elected officials have responded by pressing for more initiatives meant to diversify the region’s economy, including a pilot scholarship project at Navajo Technical University. “This is a unique program that specifically helps communities affected by the decline in the coal industry,” said the university’s president. “It’s making many opportunities available for Navajo students, but there’s still tremendous need out there.”
Plans for a new Colorado energy economy
Plans by Xcel Energy to remake the electricity-generation industry in and around Pueblo, Colo., are being seen as a harbinger of a new energy economy. The company is seeking to close two of three coal-fired power plants in Pueblo and replace them with wind and solar facilities, a change that would create a net total of more than 50 jobs. The county, which has a population of about 165,000 and is strategically situated near major power transmission lines, is “poised to become the renewable energy hub for Colorado and likely the region,” said its director of economic development.
Op-ed: Just transition for rural Colorado
A labor leader lauds Denver’s mayor for an initiative that aims to make the city a renewable energy bastion over the next generation, but urges leaders to invest in rural communities, too, where railroad employees, pipe fitters and power plant specialists are being displaced by the electricity-production transition occurring nationally. “Workers who have toiled in the mines, hauled our coal, and operated our power plants for decades deserve our support as we move towards new ways of generating energy,” writes Joshua Downer of the AFL-CIO.
Xcel steps up date for retirement of two Colorado coal plants
Citing the “historically low” cost of renewables, Xcel Energy is pressing for state approval to close two coal-fired generators in Colorado a decade earlier than planned. The plants, part of the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, would be retired in 2022 and 2025 under the proposal, and would be replaced by a pair of existing gas-fired plants, three windfarms and five utility-scale complexes.
Coal Company With Mines in Five States Gets a Bankruptcy Reprieve, for Now
A cash infusion from creditors will help stave off bankruptcy for Westmoreland Coal, but the company, which owns mines in five states, is still in trouble. “Westmoreland faces many of the same pressures irritating the coal sector nationwide,” reports a Wyoming newspaper, “including competition from cheap natural gas and environmental regulations that made some older coal units too expensive to keep running.”
Westmoreland Coal Faces Prospect of ‘Selling Off Assets or Closing Some Mines’
Westmoreland Coal, which is based in Colorado and operates in five states, is facing the prospect of having to shrink its core business as it struggles to remain a viable company. “They will have to get rid of some of their debt, get new financing to consolidate things, but also restructure the company to make it more viable for the long-term,” one analyst says. “And it could mean selling off assets or closing some mines.”
Survey: Swing-State Voters Favor Transition to Renewable Electricity Generation
A new survey finds that most voters in five swing states—Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—favor state policies mandating 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity generation. The survey results “serve as a potential warning to candidates to support renewable-energy policies or face possible voter backlash.”
Coal company with mines in several states is in financial peril
An analysis of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal shows that it is in deep financial peril, a situation that may affect communities in Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming as the company’s customer base dries up. “The cost inherent in coal-fired power are moving (utilities) away from coal," says the study’s author.
Colorado’s coal economy has not bounced back
Colorado, which has six working coal mines, reports a 6.5 percent reduction in related job gains in 2017 as utility companies in the region shift toward other electricity-generation resources in a transition that is being led by utility giants that include Xcel Energy. One noted expert on energy markets: “A brand new wind farm will be cheaper to run than an already-paid-for coal-fired power plant.”
Op-Ed: Why a Big Utility Is Embracing Wind and Solar
Costs for renewable technologies are decreasing. In Colorado, Xcel will replace two coal-burning units with built from scratch wind and solar plants and still save money.
Xcel Energy receives shockingly low bids for Colorado electricity from renewable sources
"What stands out about the response Xcel received is that wind sources with storage are now cheaper than coal generation, and solar plus storage is now cheaper than about 75 percent of coal generation in the state, according to CarbonTracker."
IEEFA Update: The Saudi Arabia of Solar? American Indian Country
Energy Transition Openings Now in the Four-Corners Region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah
Colorado Coal-Fired Plant May Shut 17 Years Ahead of Schedule
A Northern Colorado power plant, in Larimer County, could close 17 years ahead of schedule as the result of a review by its owner, the Platte River Power Authority, which is looking at cleaner and more affordable options. The plant is a significant customer of coal producers in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
Colorado City Considers Closing Coal Plant a Decade Earlier Than Planned
The City Council has directed Colorado Springs Utility to “analyze possibilities” for closing the city’s coal-fired power plant in 2025, a decade soon than planned. Colorado regulators have ruled that the 80-year-old Martin Drake Power Plant, considered a blight on the downtown area, is out of compliance with air-pollution standards.