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Utilities rates going down, an FAC, CC partnership, Unit 5's demise, and more 

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click to enlarge Martin Drake Power Plan - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Martin Drake Power Plan

Power, gas rates might dip

City Council was expected to approve a decrease in electric and natural gas rates on Tuesday, after the Independent's press deadline. The rate change would be effective Feb. 1.

The proposal called for rates to go down by 4.4 percent for residential customers, or an average $9.05 per month; 10.9 percent for commercial customers, or an average $148.46 a month; and 8.6 percent for industrial customers, or an average $3,524.68 a month.

The decline comes from "a dramatic decline in fuel costs," Utilities Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in a release, which led to an over-collection of electric and gas fees of $14.7 million and $14.2 million, respectively. CSU is passing on savings to customers and offsetting the over-collection. Cost adjustments will be revisited on a quarterly basis. — PZ

FAC, CC in courtship

Details are sketchy about a developing alliance between the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Colorado College.

The FAC posted a notice to its website last week saying the two had "entered into substantive conversations about the possibility of forging a future together."

"The two institutions share a long history and have collaborated in both formal and informal ways since the founding of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 1919," the post said. The FAC gave CC most of its library collection a few years ago, including around 6,000 of FAC co-founder Alice Bemis Taylor's books.

"Leaders of both institutions are optimistic about the potential, and are approaching these discussions diligently and thoughtfully," the website post says. "At this time, no official decisions have been made other than to continue these conversations and explore the possibilities." — MS

GOP opposes health bill

It was no surprise when the El Paso County Republican Executive Committee voted Jan. 20 to oppose a measure that would provide health insurance coverage for everyone in Colorado.

Dubbed ColoradoCare, the measure will appear on the Nov. 1 ballot and promises to save individuals and businesses $4.5 billion, according to a "vote yes" website. Funded with a 3.33 percent payroll deduction, the program would cover everyone and require no deductibles and no co-pays for primary care.

But the county GOP doesn't like the measure, called Amendment 69, the party said in a news release, noting "the fact that it would double the state's budget." The release also asserted single-payer healthcare is inefficient and Amendment 69 wouldn't "undo Obamacare."

"Universal health insurance isn't the same thing as universal health care," executive director Daniel Cole said in a release. "Granting everyone insurance won't enable everyone to see a doctor if there aren't enough doctors to go around, and single-payer healthcare drives doctors out of business."

If approved by voters, the measure would become fully implemented in January 2019. — PZ

Land conserved

Walker Ranches and The Nature Conservancy have created another conservation easement, owner of Walker Ranches, Gary Walker, said last week.

The easement, the size of which wasn't specified in a release, was made possible by agreement from Colorado Springs Utilities, which obtained an easement for its Southern Delivery System pipeline affecting 15,000 acres of the ranch.

Walker's goal is to protect Walker Ranches from development. Already, 30,000 acres have been conserved through deals with The Nature Conservancy. Walker has been recognized for his attention to conservation, and also is a leader in providing prairie dog and black-footed ferret habitat. — PZ

Drake Unit 5 to go

Colorado Springs Utilities' Board (members of City Council) finally put the latest Utilities Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) to bed at last week's meeting. The last item of outstanding business, delayed several months, was a decision on whether to decommission Drake Unit 5 by 2017's closure; the ultimate call was "yes" on a highly contentious 5-4 vote.

According to CSU data, the decommissioning is a better option than a much more costly mothballing process, plus $2 million savings over the next decade, saving funds that would have gone into converting Unit 5 to natural gas, as well as maintenance, repairs and emissions controls. CSU also says it can transition affected employees to other positions rather than making new hires.

At December's meeting, the Council had decided to shut down the entirety of Drake no later than 2035. Unit 5 only provides 46 MW of capacity, and models only showed it running for 650 hours annually between 2018 and 2030. CSU's currently operating at 100 MW of excess electrical capacity, with another reserve margin of 145 MW. Only an 8 MW per-year growth in demand is expected in the next decade, meaning CSU still would hold ample excess.

A stipulation in this EIRP, which the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) will verify by spring, says customers' rates shall not rise by more than 2 percent, and more funding will go into conservation efforts. The next EIRP process, required by WAPA, must take place no later than 2020, and within that same time frame, 80 MW of solar energy should come online, in addition to 10 MW at Clear Spring Ranch that will go online by 2016's end. — MS

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