The Colorado Springs Utilities board on Wednesday shleved plans to buy 50 megawatts of wind power in the coming year, with board members saying it was just too expensive.
Plans to add the wind energy had been in the works for months, but adding the renewable power would have increased average utility bills by 1-2 percent and the proposal was criticized by some local industries.
“I’m just a no,” board member Angela Dougan said. “We can’t do this to our ratepayers at this time.”
Utilities staff had attempted to find ways to reduce the price tag with plans to resell some of the wind power to large energy consumers, like the local military bases, or to individual customers who wanted to pay extra for “green” power. Those plans left too much uncertainty for the board.
“At this point, I can’t see CSU taking the chance on maybe not being able to afford to pass this to our customers,” said board member Bernie Herpin.
The Utilities board didn’t vote on the proposal, but directed staff to put the plans to purchase wind power on hold.
Colorado Springs Utilities is required under the state’s renewable portfolio mandate to generate 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, a goal it is on pace to reach. For-profit utilities, such as Xcel Energy, are required to generate 30 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. An Xcel spokesman said the company will have more than 2,100 megawatts of wind power by the end of 2012 and that it is ahead of schedule to meet the 30 percent standard.
Former Mayor Lionel Rivera, who has been a critic of the wind plan, called the decision “good news for our community.” Rivera argued that Utilities doesn’t need additional generating capacity for years to come and has invested heavily in Neumann Systems’ clean coal technology.
“It doesn’t make any sense even if it’s a 2 percent incremental cost to everyone,” he said of wind power. “For a company like (chip-maker) Atmel, a 2 percent incremental cost could be the difference between being profitable or not.”
Supporters for the wind proposal, including board member Jan Martin, argued that adding more renewable power to Utilities’ generating capacity would act as a hedge in case coal and natural gas prices reverse their recent drop in price.
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