coal power

A loader moves coal outside Colorado Springs Utilities' Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, toward the hopper that will transport the fuel into the power plant. (Christian Murdock, The Gazette)

Reliability, financial responsibility and sustainability will be among the top priorities for Colorado Springs Utilities over the coming decades, the agency’s board of directors decided Monday.

With two members absent and one dissenting, the board approved a new Energy Vision statement: “Provide resilient, reliable and cost-effective energy that is environmentally sustainable, reduces our carbon footprint and uses proven state-of-the-art technologies to enhance our quality of life for generations to come.”

That statement has been in the works for months. It was one of four options, and ratepayers provided much input, said Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad. Utilities started seeking their comments in April.

Most board members supported the statement, but member Andy Pico opposed it, calling climate change a “scientific fraud and political scam.”

“The ‘reduces our carbon footprint’ part is what I kind of have a problem with,” Pico said. “I recognize that the state is in control here, and the state is going to force this issue, but I don’t believe we should be necessarily embracing it.”

Pico said the statement implies that both of Utilities’ coal plants, Martin Drake and Ray Nixon, will be closed by 2030, significantly raising electric rates.

Board Vice Chairman Wayne Williams disagreed with part of that inference though. While Utilities should work to close Martin Drake sooner than its 2035 scheduled closing, the vision does not force the agency’s hand on Ray Nixon, he said.

And board member Richard Skorman took issue with Pico’s assessment of climate change. Scientists behind the theory are not pulling data out of thin air, and most agree that the change is real and a danger, he said.

“Let’s hedge our bets and do the best for our citizens,” Skorman said.

A detailed plan of how to achieve the vision will be addressed in Utilities’ “electric-integrated resource plan” and “natural gas integrated resource plan.” Both are expected to be finished next year.

Utilities’ last Energy Vision, developed in the early 2000s, set a goal of providing 20 percent of the electricity from renewable sources without increasing rates more than 1%. The goal was partially met last year.

More information about that integrated resource process is available at csu.org/energyvision.

conrad.swanson@gazette.com

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