Colorado Springs Utilities Board will hear 12 plans for Drake power plant

January 22, 2014 Updated: January 23, 2014 at 10:05 am
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The Martin Drake power plant just southwest of downtown Colorado Springs Thursday, January 24, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

The fate of Martin Drake Power Plant could be decided by summer.

The Colorado Springs City Council, which serves as the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, will begin deliberating in February whether Utilities should close the downtown coal-fired power plant or keep it open as long as 30 years.

The board will consider 12 options that weigh the financial, environmental and social costs of the plant.

For example, the best financial option for Utilities is to keep Drake open for the next 30 years. But when greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and social costs are considered, Utilities could avoid spending $753 million if it closed Drake in 2019.

HDR engineering and consulting firm was hired by the board and at the direction of the Drake Task Force studied the potential closure and costs of Drake. The firm did not make a recommendation on the best course of action, said council member Val Snider.

"We wanted to leave this as open as we could," Snider said. "It's up to us."

The consultant will present 12 options for Drake at the Feb. 19 Utilities board meeting. The board also will consider how Drake fits into the Utilities Electric Integrated Resource Plan, which details how Utilities will meet electric needs for the next 20 years.

In April, the board will hear from the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee on the Energy Plan, which details how Utilities will incorporate renewable energy.

Snider said the Drake decision needs to be part of the electric plan and renewable energy plan. He also said the board wants to hear from residents before making a decision and it will host a town hall meeting in the coming months.

The Drake decision does not have to be done by summer, said council member Andy Pico. It is a target time line.

Utilities is in the middle of updating the Drake and Ray Nixon power plants with emissions control technology - projects estimated to cost $251 million to meet the 2017 deadline for the federal guidelines. In November, Colorado Springs City Council approved an electric rate increase, which is expected to generate $12 million in 2014 and be used toward the emissions control project.

The HDR study factors in the $251 million being spent to upgrade the plants, even in the scenario which says Drake could be decommissioned by 2019. All of the options outlined by HDR were compared and contrasted to the base case, which is to keep Drake open for the next 20 years. The report details each option with a financial return on investment and sustainable return on investment.

Drake supplies about one-third of the electricity used by the community. If it were decommissioned, Utilities would need to build some other power plant or purchase power from other power companies, Pico has said.

Board member Don Knight said he wished the discussion was not so Drake-centric and that the board would consider other power plants for possible decommissioning. Snider said Drake became a focal point because of its age and its downtown location. Drake was built in three phases in 1964, 1968 and 1974.

The HDR report will be the first time the Utilities board has seen costs associated with greenhouse gases and other social and environmental impacts to the community, Snider said.

"This is a big policy decision that hopefully we can make in summer of 2014," he said.



Click here to read the HDR report.

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