More than half of Colorado utility customers are expected to have 100 percent carbon-free electricity in the next 30 years after another of the state’s utility providers announced new emission goals Thursday.
Platte River Power Authority, which serves the cities of Longmont, Fort Collins, Estes Park and Loveland, voted to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2030. The northern Colorado utility serves more than 330,000 people, according to its website.
Colorado Springs Utilities is moving toward more renewable energy, although at a slower pace than the other large power producers in the state.
Utilities, which had languished around 10 percent renewables, announced in September a planned purchase of 150 megawatts of solar energy, which will raise its renewable energy share to 21 percent.
The municipally owned utility remains committed to coal for at least part of its energy production for possibly another decade or more. The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown is to be closed no later than 2035, but the new CEO, Aram Benyamin, has said it could be shut down much sooner.
“Two of Colorado’s biggest utilities committed this week to eliminate carbon pollution, and this news is largely in response to years of advocacy at the local level for a shift from costly fossil fuels to clean energy ...” said Emily Gedeon, conservation program director of Colorado Sierra Club. “The rest of Colorado’s utilities can no longer sit idly by because their customers are also going to want a low cost, clean energy system that works for everyone.”
This year, the cities of Longmont and Fort Collins made commitments to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Within the past month, the Estes Park Town Board and Loveland City Council passed resolutions supporting the utility’s goal.
“Platte River has been a leader in the past, in the early stages of developing hydro and renewable energy,” said Gordon MacAlpine of the Estes Valley Clean Energy Coalition, “and now it’s fitting that our municipal utility will take advantage of the opportunity to lead again, both economically and environmentally, as Colorado moves toward zero carbon emissions.”
Xcel Energy announced it would supply zero-carbon electricity by 2050 to utility customers in the eight states in which in operates. By 2030, it hopes to slash its emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels.
Platte River’s service area includes about 342,000 people. Combined, the utilities account for about 54 percent of Colorado electricity customers and one-third of Colorado’s population, including those in cities of Denver, Boulder and part of Pueblo, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Representatives in both deals cited climate change as a driver behind the decision.
“Renewable energy is the path that we must take to reduce the harmful effects of climate change in our communities,” said Karen Dike, vice chair of Sustainable Resilient Longmont. “The residents of Longmont support this vote by the PRPA and this represents a major step forward to achieving Longmont’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, set forth by the City Council in January.”
The announcements come amid the release of multiple major climate reports during the past two months. Most recently, the Global Carbon Fund published a report detailing 2018’s record-setting carbon emissions.
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