Energy Summit: Utilities well on way to meet emission targets

LOVELAND — New Colorado laws will require utilities to make major changes to their electricity generation operations to meet new emissions targets, but the changes and targets, for the most part, were already in the works.

Andy Berger with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association addresses attendees at the Colorado Energy Summit. Also pictured, center, is Keith Hay with the Colorado Energy Office and Jack Ihle, Xcel Energy-Colorado. Ken Amundson/BizWest.

Plans to meet targets for increasing numbers of electric-powered vehicles, however, are much more uncertain. 

Representatives from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., Xcel Energy Inc. and Colorado Energy Office addressed the changes in state law at the Colorado Energy Summit at the Ranch in Loveland on Thursday.

Keith Hay, director of utility policy at the Colorado Energy Office, said the changes are part of Gov. Jared Polis’s energy agenda to help consumers save money as well as reduce impacts on the environment. The rules extend access to clean energy resources to rural areas similar to what’s available in urban areas. Among the changes passed into law in 2019:

  • Increased energy efficiency for appliances
  • Updates to building energy codes
  • Extending tax credits for electric vehicles and facilitating access to charging stations.
  • Requiring new rules by next summer on how to measure and count greenhouse gases.
  • Setting targets for reducing greenhouse gases over a period of years.
  • Enabling greater access to solar gardens or community-shared solar arrays so that more customers can access the power.
  • Providing assistance to coal-mining communities and coal-industry workers as the state tapers off coal-generated power.

Andy Berger, senior manager of environmental policy for Tri-State, said the climate action plan and the targets for reduction of greenhouse gases will be the biggest impact for the electric cooperative that has operations in four states including Colorado. The utility is already taking steps. It has moved up the closure of its Nucla, Colorado, coal-generated electrical plant to 2020 and is seeking proposals to develop renewable energy sources.

Jack Ihle, director of regulatory and strategy analysis for Xcel Energy – Colorado, said the company has 1.5 million electric customers in Colorado and 1.4 million natural gas customers in the state.

Xcel has been public in its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing its energy mix, which is currently 39 percent coal, 33 percent natural gas and 28 percent renewables. “A few years ago, that would have been two-thirds coal and about 4 percent renewables,” Ihle said.

The company is targeting a 60 percent reduction in emissions under its Colorado Energy Plan by 2026. The renewable mix will be 55 percent by then, he said.

“We’re heading toward an 80 percent emissions reduction. Our customers want this type of transition and our communities want this transition,” he said.

Ihle said the transport — electric vehicle — requirements in Senate Bill 1977 are much less clear. “It’s a robust pathway to pursue,” he said, “and unclear how we’ll get there.” 

He said while customers typically will not notice a change when the sources of power for their homes change, they will notice changes as the number of electric vehicles and charging stations increase.

 

LOVELAND — New Colorado laws will require utilities to make major changes to their electricity generation operations to meet new emissions targets, but the changes and targets, for the most part, were already in the works.

Andy Berger with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association addresses attendees at the Colorado Energy Summit. Also pictured, center, is Keith Hay with the Colorado Energy Office and Jack Ihle, Xcel Energy-Colorado. Ken Amundson/BizWest.

Plans to meet targets for increasing numbers of electric-powered vehicles, however, are much more uncertain. 

Representatives from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., Xcel Energy Inc. and Colorado Energy Office addressed the changes in state law at the Colorado Energy Summit at the Ranch in Loveland on Thursday.

Keith Hay, director of utility policy at the Colorado Energy Office, said the changes are part of Gov. Jared Polis’s energy agenda to help consumers save money as well as reduce impacts on the environment. The rules extend access to clean energy resources to rural areas similar to what’s available in urban areas. Among the changes passed into law in 2019:

  • Increased energy efficiency for appliances
  • Updates to building energy codes
  • Extending tax credits for electric vehicles and facilitating access to charging stations.
  • Requiring new rules by next summer on how to measure and count greenhouse gases.
  • Setting targets for reducing…