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Club 20 and its due diligence

Club 20 and its due diligence

After a little due diligence, Club 20, the long-time “Voice of the Western Slope,” revised its position on Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan from “support” to “neutral” on Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan (CEP) according to a letter it sent to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last November. Originally, the Western Slope’s premiere “coalition of counties, communities, businesses, & individuals” supported the plan.

The CEP is a massive $2.5 billion fuel switching scheme to retire a decade ahead of schedule nearly 700 megawatts of the state’s most affordable, reliable and environmentally superior coal fired power and replace the units with more than 2,000 megawatts of various intermittent sources predominantly wind and solar.

Why bring it up now? Because Xcel’s mega PR machine is working overtime pushing its narrative that everyone is on board and that only “traditional opponents” — to use Xcel Colorado President Alice Jackson term  — question the plan. The reality is that with a little due diligence, many, including consumer groups, labor organizations, renewable energy advocates, electric cooperatives and even PUC Staff, have concerns about the CEP.

Club 20’s initial support was puzzling because for many Western Slope communities that are members of Club 20, coal is a proud way of life, as a recent Craig Daily Press editorial  made abundantly clear:

The coal industry built this community, and the coal industry is what allows this community to continue. Our family members, our friends, and our neighbors are coal miners, and in most Moffat County households, coal is what puts food on the table and gasoline in the tank.

What’s more, coal is a way of life here in Northwest Colorado. It’s a time-honored and noble line of work, and in many families, working in the mines is a proud tradition that’s been passed from father to son for generations.

…Honestly, we’ve had just about enough of being told by corporate interests that coal is somehow evil and that, by extracting it from the ground, we are also evil — that we’re a bunch of greedy, morally bankrupt ingrates who care nothing for the environment or the future of our planet.

Well, that’s simply not true, and, frankly, we resent the implication.

It’s that way of life that Club 20 cited as a reason for the change in position.

We are strongly opposed to the early retirement of coal-fueled power plants and have grave concerns about the impacts to our local coal producers and our local economies with such early retirements.

Those “impacts” will be felt on family budgets too. With Xcel’s cost savings claims thoroughly discredited, Club 20 justifiably worries about the CEP’s impact on electricity rates especially in rural Colorado, recalling the huge cost of HB10-1365 the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, Xcel’s previous fuel switching scheme:

The current Colorado Energy Plan does not outline the impacts of the early retirement of coal units on the actual rates that consumers will pay. Since the passage of HB10-1365, consumers in rural Colorado have seen their electric bills sky rocket as electric utilities have been required to incorporate a greater percentage of renewable energy sources. Many of these residents simply cannot afford additional increases in their utility costs and we cannot lend our support to a plan that has the potential to increase rates and threatens the prosperity for Western Coloradans.

Using Xcel’s own numbers, Coalition of Ratepayers expert witness Charles Griffey found that any savings are highly speculative and don’t materialize until 2046, if ever.

The bottom line for Club 20 is that after a bit of research, the group found it didn’t have enough information on the actual cost nor real savings to make an informed decision so it revised its position on the CEP from “support” to “neutral” — a smart move that other supporters would be wise to follow.

Amy Cooke