Progress has always come with a price. The move toward greater use of electricity generated by renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, is no different.
The Coloradoan editorial board supports reduced reliance on carbon-emitting sources of energy, such as coal, because of the environmental benefit. We believe the days of burning coal to generate electricity should be numbered.
However, before our community dives head-first into the rush to renewables as the primary source of power generation, we want to know that the reliability of the electrical service we currently enjoy will continue – and at a reasonable cost.
The Fort Collins Sustainability Group and other concerned residents are urging the Fort Collins City Council to commit the city’s electrical utility to using renewable energy sources 100 percent of the time by 2030.
The city and its wholesale supplier of electrical power – Platte River Power Authority, or PRPA – have made strides toward increasing their utilization of wind and solar resources in recent years. PRPA projects 32 percent of the energy it delivers to its owner cities – Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park – in 2018 will come from non-carbon emitting sources.
That’s a long way from 100 percent renewable energy. Closing the gap in 12 years might be possible, but it’s not a given. It’s not clear what the short and long-range costs of accelerating the shift from coal and natural gas to wind and solar would be or how it would ultimately affect businesses and residents.
The goal of 100 percent renewable energy is laudable and worth seeking. That said, we see little gain in setting 2030 as the hard deadline for reaching that goal. The date seems artificial, intended more to advance the conversation on renewables than to be a reasonable target.
Yes, reaching the goal by then might be possible. But is it probable? The target relies on the development of cost-effective, reliable battery systems to store power that don’t currently exist.
The pace of change in technology makes the mind spin. Advances in battery technology could very well make the 2030 deadline feasible. We just don’t know that yet.
Costs for solar and wind power are declining, bringing them in line with “status quo” energy-production models down the road, according to some studies. But what happens to those costs if state and federal energy subsidies are pulled? And what will storage costs turn out to be?
Cost matters to Fort Collins’ major businesses and institutions, such Colorado State University, that have committed to going to 100 percent renewable energy. And they certainly matter to residents as they experience continually rising costs in every aspect of their daily lives.
PRPA has done a good job of expanding its renewables portfolio and keeping track of the changing landscape of energy supply chains. It provides the lowest wholesale rates to electrical utilities in the state.
We trust PRPA to continue that good work, including studying battery systems, as it develops plans for delivering service that is economical, reliable and environmentally sound. We trust the agency to continue to being one of the best examples of intergovernmental cooperation in Colorado.
The PRPA board of directors is made up of representatives of its owner cities. Each city is represented by its mayor and an appointee with experience in utilities, business and decision-making.
If board members, who represent their constituencies, direct the PRPA staff to get the not-for-profit 100 percent into renewables, that will happen.
We don’t see the need to rush things for the sake of appearances.
This is the view of the Coloradoan editorial board, written this week by columnist Kevin Duggan. The board meets weekly to set the topic and direction of the Coloradoan’s Sunday editorials. News reporters are not involved in the editorial board process.
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