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Xcel Energy’s announcement this week that it’s pulling the plug on a controversial and hotly contested transmission line project in the San Luis Valley is being cheered by local environmentalists but viewed with skepticism by Xcel’s partner in the project, Tri-State Generation and Transmission.
Xcel Energy officials late this afternoon expressed disappointment over Boulder’s move to create its own municipal electric utility, continuing to cast doubt on the city’s cost projections.
Colorado’s future looks extremely hot and dry if current climate trends continue, and the city of Boulder is being proactive in planning for more drought conditions, less water and a relatively crispy climate outlook all along the state’s Front Range in coming years.
Critics of large, utility-scale solar power plants like the one that recently landed a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee in southern Colorado say the feds need to better vet energy technology before putting so many taxpayer dollars on the line.
Conservation groups deeply involved in the resource acquisition planning process for Westminster-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission say they’re very concerned the state’s second largest power supplier behind only Xcel Energy is planning to build an 895-megawatt conventional, coal-fired power plant just across the state line in Holcomb, Kan.
Xcel Energy shines nationally when it comes to providing solar energy to its customers, according to a recent survey, but locally representatives of Colorado’s solar industry say the state’s largest utility has done much to undermine their energy sector since the beginning of the year.
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility and a key backer of Colorado’s aggressive renewable energy standard (RES), reacted with skepticism to Monday’s lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law mandating 30 percent of Xcel’s electricity be produced by renewable sources by 2020. “... We understand that [the complaint] was made by a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization,” Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz told the Colorado Independent. “We would be surprised if a federal court would overturn Colorado's legislatively approved Renewable Energy Standard.”
Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has walked a fine line the last several years, advocating for new nuclear energy because of global climate change concerns while running the risk of alienating his Democratic, environmentalist base, many of whom still bitterly oppose nuclear power because of its legacy of mining pollution in the state. In the wake of the Japan’s ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, more than just the so-called “dirty front end” of nuclear power – Colorado’s rich but sometimes toxic uranium mining history – is being called into question. The issues of waste storage at the state’s only nuclear power plant – the now-defunct Fort St. Vrain – and a lack of water to cool future reactors also are being hotly debated.
The future of Colorado’s dormant nuclear power industry hinges on two critical issues – water and waste – both of which could prove insurmountable for proponents of new nuclear power plants in the state. Pueblo attorney Don Banner struck a nerve last week with his proposal for a new clean energy park that would include a nuclear power plant. His rezoning request will likely be decided by the Pueblo County commissioners next month, but not before the plan sparked heated debate in the wake of Japan’s ongoing nuclear power crisis.
Delaying the acquisition of additional solar resources could save ratepayers money and open the door for projects smaller than the 95-mile transmission line proposed...