Brodie Farquhar: Colorado could save billions by shutting down coal-fired plants
January 11, 2019
Recently, Xcel announced plans to be carbon-free by 2050, and new Colorado Governor Jared Polis, in his State of the State speech last week, wants 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
Everyone, with the exception of Trump, Republicans and the fossil fuel industry, recognizes that climate change is real, is caused by humans and that mankind has a limited window to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
Environmentalists and progressive Democrats are calling for a massive effort, on the scale of World War II mobilization, the Manhatten Project and the moon shot, to convert the American economy from dependency on fossil fuels, to renewable energy: wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal.
With that backdrop in mind, pay attention to a new story by Vox, which cites research that Colorado could save $2.5 billion by rapidly shutting down the state's coal-fired plants, while building a massive, renewables system to power the state.
Vox notes new research by Vibrant Clean Energy, whose analysis states that by 2040, Colorado could capture $2.5 billion in savings "by rapidly phasing out its coal fleet, while providing reliable power, lowering customers' power bills, improving public health, and reducing carbon emissions by more than a half-billion metric tons."
VCE compared and contrasted three scenarios: continue operating the fleet of plants with no changes to 2040; pursue a least-cost phase-out of coal by 2040; and shut down all plants by 2025, triggering an intense effort to replace all that power with renewable energy.
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The modeling found that all three scenarios delivered reliable energy.
Second, keeping coal plants running resulted in the highest system costs, highest retail power rates, highest carbon emissions and highest public health costs. Third, the phase-in approach would cost the least amount of money. Fourth, the crash program to close coal plants and replace them with renewables would provide the greatest reduction in carbon emissions for a relatively small price premium; lower retail rates; and trigger a construction/employment boom.
Obviously, coal plant workers should go to the head of the line for re-training and hiring in building a renewables energy system.
Ultimately, it is cheaper to build clean energy systems than to prop up and continue operation of the current aging and money-losing fleet of coal-fired energy plants.
For further details, see http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/1/8/18170454/colorado-coal-power-plants-shut-down-close-renewables. It includes a link to the VCE paper.