The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has approved a $2.5 billion plan by Xcel Energy to close coal-fired power plants and add a hefty dose of wind and solar generation so 55 percent of the utility’s electricity will come from clean energy by 2026.
Xcel, Colorado’s largest electricity provider with 3.2 million customers, got the approval Aug. 27 in a 2-1 vote by the Colorado PUC to close two units at its Comanche Station in Pueblo 10 years ahead of schedule as part of its Colorado Energy Plan. The units, with 660 megawatts, will be closed by 2026. A third Comanche unit will continue to operate.
Xcel does not provide service in Colorado Springs, where the coal-fired Martin Drake and Nixon power plants continue to operate. The downtown Drake plant is set to close by 2035.
For Xcel, switching from coal-fired electricity to wind and solar will save customers about $200 million by 2054, say company and PUC estimates.
“Retiring Comanche 1 and 2 sooner rather than later is the right thing to do,” Commissioner Frances Koncilja said.
Xcel will add 1,110 MW of wind power, 700 MW of photovoltaic solar and 275 MW of energy storage tied to solar projects. The utility also will buy 383 MW of existing natural gas turbines as backup.
The cost to build and buy the natural gas plants and solar and wind farms will be $2.5 billion, the company said.
The facilities would be in Adams, Baca, Boulder, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Morgan, Park, Pueblo and Weld counties.
“This is the first time in the nation that a utility is proposing closing coal-fired plants and replacing them totally with renewable energy,” said Erin Overturf, an attorney with the environmental policy group Western Resource Advocates. “It reasserts Colorado’s standing as a leader in clean energy.”
Xcel has said that about 80 jobs will be eliminated under the plan. Some of those workers are expected to retire before the shutdowns, and Xcel said it would try to find new jobs for the others.
The Associated Press contributed.