Monday, July 1, 2019

City's coal plants cost more to run than wind and solar, study says

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2019 at 11:40 AM

click to enlarge Drake Power Plant south of the downtown area costs more to run on coal than if replaced with renewables, clean-energy advocates say. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Drake Power Plant south of the downtown area costs more to run on coal than if replaced with renewables, clean-energy advocates say.
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign staged a rally at Colorado Springs Utilities' customer service office, 111 S. Cascade Ave., on July 1 to highlight findings of a new study by Strategen that shows wind and solar power are cheaper than Martin Drake coal units 6 and 7 and the Nixon power plant 10 miles south of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs Utilities runs both plants, and the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council members, has targeted 2035 for closing Drake. There's no closing date for Nixon so far.

The Drake units, which came online in 1968 and 1974, would cost $42.5 million more over 30 years to run compared to wind and solar, the study found.

If the social cost of carbon is added, the total is $862.4 million.

"The social cost of carbon," the Sierra Club's Sumer Shaikh tells the Independent, "provides a monetary estimate of the damages wrought by climate change, such as costs associated with wildfires damages or pollution induced illnesses. The Sunset Public Utilities Commission Act requires the utility to calculate the societal impacts of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, using a minimum value of $46 per short ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020."

But Drake isn't as bad as some other plants in the state, as demonstrated by this illustration contained in the study.
click to enlarge screen_shot_2019-07-01_at_11.18.42_am.png

In a statement, the Sierra Club said Springs Utilities' "coal-heavy energy portfolio is economically unviable, burdening customers with extra costs when compared to renewable energy resources in southern Colorado."

The nonprofit environmental group also noted that Springs Utilities hasn't added wind to its energy arsenal.

But the city-owned utility is investing in solar power by recently investing in three sun-powered projects.

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