Western Resource Advocate’s (WRA) Clean Energy Program has been busy in Colorado, participating in settlements that set the stage for 400 MW of distributed solar and other emissions-free generation. Since March, we’ve also participated in Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proceedings examining a proposal for a new, large wind project in Colorado called Rush Creek.
In September, WRA and parties representing many interests successfully reached an agreement to support Xcel Energy’s plan to build, own, and operate 600 MW of wind generation in eastern Colorado. If the PUC approves the agreement, Rush Creek will generate enough electricity to power 180,000 homes and eliminate 1 million tons of CO2 pollution annually. A decision is expected at the end of the month.
The benefits of the Rush Creek wind project go well beyond its substantial emissions reductions. It could save customers up to $443 million over 25 years, since Xcel would not have to purchase and burn fossil fuels in its coal and gas-fired generators. It’s also a good project for independent renewable energy developers, because it includes transmission to support 1,000 – 2,000 MW or more of additional renewable energy projects in the future.
A unique aspect of this wind settlement is that Xcel will own the project. Allowing Xcel to own this project provides the company with an important financial incentive to develop renewables.
Although Xcel already operates over 2,300 MW of wind on its system in Colorado, Rush Creek would be the only wind installation Xcel owns when it is proposed to come online in October 2018. All the other wind energy Xcel has purchased since the early 2000’s is owned and operated in Colorado by independent developers. Xcel uses this wind energy to serve its customers and exceed its annual state Renewable Energy Standard requirements, but the only generation plants it earns a direct profit from are the fossil fueled generation the utility owns.
WRA supports utilities like Xcel owning at least some renewable generation because it means the utility has “skin in the game.” If a utility like Xcel is not permitted to own renewable resources, its incentive is to build more fossil fueled generation, and to use the fossil fueled generation that it owns and profits from. We want utilities like Xcel to see that renewable energy is not only good for customers and the environment, but also is a good investment for its shareholders.
We are hoping the PUC sees these benefits and approves the agreement when it meets on September 30th. To follow this issue and more about the future of clean energy, subscribe to our email updates.
Image credit: Daniel Austin Hoherd