March 25, 2019 Read More →

Colorado legislator pushes bill to pave the way for early coal plant closures

Greentech Media:

Increasingly affordable wind and solar power are rendering an ever-larger share of the United States’ existing thermal power plants uneconomic. Aging coal-fired power plants are especially vulnerable in this head-to-head, brown versus green match-up.

Policymakers across the country are now grappling with how to reduce the cost of sending money-losing fossil power plants to an early retirement while softening the potentially negative blow to ratepayers, as well as to affected workers and communities.

In Colorado, a state lawmaker is pushing a proposal he believes strikes the right balance in achieving all those aims. In January, Chris Hansen, a Democratic member of the Colorado House of Representatives, introduced the “Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act” (HB 1037). The legislation is an updated version of a bill Hansen introduced in 2017. That bill passed the House but died in the then-Republican-controlled state Senate.

In an interview with Greentech Media, Rep. Hansen explained that the bill does two things: it uses a ratepayer-backed bond mechanism — securitization — to address the stranded asset problem in the power sector, and it reserves some of the savings generated from that bonding transaction to help workers and towns where the retirements occur.

Hansen’s bill is predicated on the fact that in states like Colorado, blessed with an abundance of low-cost wind and solar power resources, existing fossil power plants can’t compete on cost now and in the future.

In an interview with GTM, Ronald Lehr, an independent consultant and former Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) chairman, said it was clear by 2013, in the Public Service Company of Colorado’s own analysis, that adding wind and solar power to the grid lowered the cost of service for the utility’s customers. The Public Service Company of Colorado is an Xcel Energy subsidiary and the state’s largest utility.

More: Colorado may have a winning formula for managing early coal plant retirements

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