Articles filed under Energy Policy from Colorado
If local citizens want to assuage their guilt about energy use and carbon footprints they must first prepare themselves for a few simple inconvenient truths. That's because some wind and solar true believers conveniently dispense with rational discussion concerning what's possible to achieve in meeting future electric energy needs along with what it will cost to make significant gains. Were it not for the huge taxpayer subsidies the "green" revolution promised for wind and solar would not be possible. ... Our Department of Energy wants to achieve that 20 percent goal by the year 2030 and some States even want a more ambitious goal. Fortunately there are people who recognize that in order to achieve these goals we will need to build twice as much capacity because it isn't always windy where it needs to be.
These days we read and hear more and more about the exponential increases in renewable energy, particularly large wind farms such as those sprouting up on Colorado's front range and eastern plains. Colorado's Amendment 37 requires the state's largest utility companies to produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. A subsequent legislative action doubled that to 20 percent by 2020. ...This is all great news, right? Not if you are an independent grid system operator, and not if you're expecting all of this large scale wind power to help reduce global warming carbon emissions. Wind power is by nature a notoriously intermittent source of power. Wind simply doesn't blow steadily all of the time. Therefore, the power output of all large scale wind farms goes up and down dramatically throughout the day, regardless of the demand for power on the grid. ...Without energy diversity, the more renewable power we mandate, the more unreliable the grid will become. The laws of physics simply can't be amended.
The coal burning power plant at Rawhide constructed 25 years ago provides PRPA with 70 percent of its energy needs. Of the remaining gap, 17 percent is generated through hydro projects in scattered locations with the remaining 13 percent gained by natural gas, wind and power purchases made from surrounding utilities. Pending federal carbon tax legislation could make coal plant operations increasingly more costly forcing many utilities, including PRPA, to turn to cleaner, albeit more expensive, energy forms suc wind. Historically, PRPA has bolstered its renewable portfolio through the purchase of renewable energy credits, or RECs, that allow it to invest in wind farms owned by others who pay for main-tenance and repairs. If a carbon tax were instituted, PRPA would not get credit for RECs and would only see benefit from its homegrown Medicine Bow wind project built nearly a decade ago. Last year, wind power generated 1 percent of PRPA's total energy, Moeck said. ..."Basically we're becoming more dependent on electricity every day, Troxell said. "It's not simply the plasma screens and air conditioners, either. We live in a digital world that is powered by electricity ..."
The state requires municipally owned Springs Utilities to derive 1 percent from renewables annually from 2008 to 2010, 3 percent from 2011 to 2014, 6 percent from 2015 to 2019 and 10 percent by 2020. More daunting is the possibility that federal lawmakers will impose carbon taxes to drive down reliance on coal. No one knows how much that would cost, but Springs Utilities could pay $150 million a year - about 16 percent of its current budget. That's a big incentive to find alternatives, and wind is one of those. ...The city's most recent poll showed 76 percent of residential customers surveyed are willing to pay $1 to $2 more a month to support wind. That's the estimated financial impact of using 50 megawatts of wind, which translates to 3.3 percent of the city's energy needs per year. The reason it doesn't account for more is that wind is an intermittent resource, and power is available from it only 35 percent of the time, Knopp said. Utilities' customer poll also showed 71 percent of the city's business customers support wind if it causes bills to increase by 1 percent or less.
Colorado is vulnerable due to its current low prices is in its efforts to implement renewable energy solutions. While other states, including California and Massachusetts, take on large scale efforts for wind, solar and other renewable and clean energy production opportunities, the low cost of energy in Colorado makes these energy investments by utilities, private companies, and Colorado residents, not economically viable when compared to the current low cost of traditional fossil fuel based energy in Colorado. This means that, in spite of our Governor's strong emphasis on making Colorado the renewable energy state, current low prices for traditional energy hinder Coloradans, our venture capital sector, and our companies from jumping on this clean energy bandwagon with significant investment.
While there are some small hydroelectric generation projects in Colorado, the bulk of renewable energy is provided by wind turbines. Under the law, solar electric is required to meet at least 4 percent of the renewable energy for investor-owned utilities. "The problem is, the wind doesn't blow all the time and the sun doesn't shine all the time," said Gary Schmitz, chief economist for the Energy Forum. "The purpose of the study was to look at how many of these will we have to build to get that amount of energy." The answer is somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 more wind turbines that produce between 1.5 and 2 megawatts each, or roughly five times current numbers. Solar capacity would have to increase about sixfold from current levels. Power providers say they can reach those levels without much economic disruption, although requiring larger amounts of renewable energy would begin to strain financial resources, Smith said.
Despite Colorado's drive to develop renewable energy, the state will still need the equivalent of 13 new 350-megawatt plants to satisfy its power needs by 2025, according to a report by an independent research group with ties to the energy industry. The Colorado Energy Forum says even with additional power from wind, solar and other renewable sources, the state could need up to 4,500 megawatts of electricity 18 years from now. ..."There's probably a sense out there that people need to do something about climate change and with all the talk about renewable energy this year we're concerned that people will say, ‘Boy, I'm glad we got that taken care of,"‘ Bruce Smith, former director of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and executive director of the group said Wednesday. "Even with those (renewable energy) contributions, there's still a large amount that we've got to get yet."
Reserve generating capacity, normally 10 percent to 15 percent, could be down to 1 percent or zero percent in some places, and Yale professor Charles Perrow, who follows power-supply shortfalls, says "I'm prepared to see many more blackouts occurring. . . . it's really going to be a freight train running into disaster." This is not an encouraging scenario, to say the least. ...Here is one decisive piece of realism: Coal supplies more than 50 percent of U.S. electricity and more than 80 percent of Colorado's electricity. Due to its abundance and price stability, coal will - and must - continue to be a major source in meeting U.S. and world electricity demand for decades to come. While proponents of alternative energy are often adamant in their rejection of coal as a continued long-term energy resource, reality dictates otherwise. To dismiss this reality is simply dangerous - dangerous to long-term energy supply and price stability.
Geothermal, or earth energy, is perhaps the most underutilized renewable source of energy. Whether using the earth's naturally stable temperature to provide heating and cooling, or harnessing extreme heat from deep below the earth's surface to generate electricity, the potential of geothermal energy has until now been largely untapped. But the geothermal marketplace is growing fast. Understanding the current technologies involved and the economics behind them can help building designers, business executives, and homeowners to take advantage of this renewable, clean and efficient energy source. There are two types of energy under the geothermal category, each markedly different from the other.
As the Senate continues consideration of H.R.6, the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, the Senate Finance Committee approved June 19 a broad package of energy tax incentives, several of which were driven by Senator Salazar. The Finance Committee energy tax package helps further America's progress towards energy independence and includes two Salazar-authored renewable energy incentives which will benefit farmers, ranchers, small businesses and homeowners.
On remote land near New Castle, wind turbines spin, helping power a plant that produces ethanol, perhaps also with the help of electricity from solar panels. The plant also could tap methane from the coal-rich Grand Hogback and convert it to ethanol. In addition, the plant would make ethanol from biodegradable materials at area landfills, from solid waste from municipalities and septic service companies, and from switchgrass grown by local ranchers. The windmills even could be used to pump water into a nearby reservoir, essentially storing energy that could be tapped through hydroelectric turbines when the water later is released downstream. These are among some ideas being floated by a mix of local investors and out-of-state companies seeking to capitalize on a growing demand for alternative sources of energy.
People around the country accused Denver on Monday of embracing a "crackpot" scheme to fight global warming after the city's plan drew widespread attention on the Internet. The reaction was to a Rocky Mountain News story that detailed some of the proposals in Denver's Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut the city's output of gas emissions linked to global warming. The plan includes several controversial ideas, including making residents who use large amounts of electricity and natural gas pay higher utility fees, boosting insurance rates for people who drive long distances and mandating that homes be energy efficient before they can be sold.
Four months after saying his "New Energy Economy" was more than a campaign promise, Gov. Bill Ritter will sign a half-dozen measures this week encouraging Coloradans to make more renewable energy and consume less fuel overall. On Tuesday, Ritter signed a bill that rewards utilities for promoting energy conservation. It was vetoed twice by his predecessor, GOP Gov. Bill Owens. Today, Ritter plans to sign measures to promote recycling and biofuels development, encourage construction of transmission lines from solar and wind farms and provide tax credits for renewable energy.
DENVER - A bill that won preliminary approval in the Senate Thursday, which creates a new authority for financing construction of transmission lines to carry renewable energy, is very different from the one Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma introduced and passed through the House early in February.
Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill into law Tuesday that requires Colorado utilities to get more electricity from the sun, wind, or plant and animal waste. House Bill 1281 sailed smoothly through the state legislature, clearing the House and Senate, both with Democratic majorities, in about five weeks before landing on Ritter's desk last month.
DENVER - Over two years after voters required that utilities get 10 percent of their power from renewable sources, Colorado is poised to double that requirement. The House and Senate gave final approval Friday to a measure (House Bill 1281) that would require large utilities like Xcel Energy and Aquila to get at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. Rural electric cooperatives and all but the smallest municipal utilities would have to get to 10 percent by then. Gov. Bill Ritter said he would sign the bill, which he called the centerpiece of his renewable energy agenda. He said it will help stimulate the economies of the Eastern Plains and the San Luis Valley where there is so much wind, sun and farmland.
Legislation designed to encourage future wind farms in Colorado breezed through a state Senate committee Wednesday with backing from the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy. The bill would ease the financial burden of building new transmission lines for some utilities by making customers pay construction costs more quickly. Backers say new power lines would encourage the development of more wind farms and other alternative-energy projects.
Democrats rolled out their long-awaited renewable-energy bills Wednesday, setting up a potential fight with rural electricity providers. With the backing of a friendly governor, legislators put forward an aggressive set of bills that includes requiring 20 percent of Colorado’s electricity to come from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020.
When the country thinks about its energy problems, it often focuses on our dependence on foreign oil and the recent high prices of gasoline. Petroleum provides 40 percent of our energy and is particularly vulnerable to geopolitical swings in unstable regions of the world. But utility executives worry that Americans are failing to appreciate another aspect of the energy picture, namely that the power plants using coal, natural gas and nuclear power to produce electricity may soon not meet our growing needs. "My biggest fear is that we are running out of generation," said Michael G. Morris, chairman and chief executive of American Electric Power, with 5 million customers in 11 states. "That is an issue that the average person doesn't know a thing about. When we tell corporate America, they say, 'What do you mean you're running out of power?"' The executives' concern is echoed by the North American Electric Reliability Council, which last week said in its annual report that in two to three years, the margin between power supply and demand will drop below levels necessary for reliability in Texas, the Northeast and the Midwest. Other parts of the country could reach that point in the next decade.
BEAVER CREEK - While some of the world's leading geologists, physicists and investment bankers are saying a decline in oil production will soon change civilization as we know it, Scott Tinker recently told the Vail Valley there is no energy crisis. "We're never going to run out of oil," said Tinker, Texas' state geologist, as well as the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stones, and the oil age will not end for lack of oil. We'll run out of ideas before we run out of oil." Tinker and 15 others spoke about their views on energy in the region, state and world during Forecast for the Future, an energy forum hosted by the Vail Symposium last weekend at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek.