COLORADO SPRINGS — In a major milestone on the path to decommissioning the downtown Martin Drake Power Plant, all electric generation inside the plant will be permanently shut down as of Thursday, September 1.

The decision to decommission the plant and move toward a more sustainable future was made in 2020 with Springs Utilities’ Sustainable Energy Plan, which was passed on a 7-2 vote by the Utilities Board.

In the years since, Springs Utilities has:

  • Stopped all coal burning in August 2021
  • Removed the coal pile and associated equipment
  • Found new jobs within the organization for more than 40 former Drake employees
  • Began installation of six temporary natural gas units adjacent to the plant
  • Have now ceased all generation activities inside the plant

“I am extremely grateful to our employees, both past and present, who helped the Drake Power Plant operate as a fixture of reliability and efficiency for nearly 100 years, and who have helped us reach this vital milestone,” said Aram Benyamin, Chief Executive Officer for Springs Utilities.

Since last August, the two remaining generating units inside the Drake Power Plant ran on natural gas and served as peak load units and only ran as needed.

“We want to make sure these are safe and we have plans for these units to be transitioned to another location down the road,” said Benyamin. “And this place will be open for any use that the public would desire for us to have as a city.”

The six modular natural gas units currently being installed outside the plant – set to be commissioned in the First Quarter of 2023 – will also serve as peak load generation and will remain onsite until a new transmission line is built. The modular units will then be relocated to other parts of the system by 2027.

“For nearly a century, the Martin Drake Power Plant has served a vital function in Colorado Springs,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Today’s milestone is bittersweet because it marks the end of an era. Our city will move forward with cleaner, but still reliable and affordable forms of energy and our enhanced downtown skyline will help us continue to be a city that matches our beautiful scenery.”

The next steps in fully removing the Drake Power Plant structure include the selection of a contractor to oversee the physical breakdown and removal of the plant’s internal equipment, stacks, and exterior façade. This process is expected to take approximately three years.

Some of the employees working at Drake will stay behind to help with the physical breakdown and removal of the plant’s internal equipment, stacks, and exterior facade.

 “A lot of really devoted public servants have worked here to deliver that reliable and affordable power to our citizens here in Colorado Springs,” said Mayor Suthers.

Other employees will be moved to projects within CSU.

“All our employees that have worked here, every one of them has been placed in different parts of the utility,” said Benyamin. “That is the biggest part that we wanted to make sure that we don’t leave any employee behind.”

The Sustainable Energy Plan was adopted after an 18-month public process to obtain customer and community input, and an assessment of a growing regulatory landscape that includes aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to move away from fossil fuels.

“It has a menu of projects that we are pulling together in order for the transition to happen safely and more sustainable for the next many decades to come,” said Benyamin.

The Sustainable Energy Plan includes the following targets:

  • Reduce carbon emissions at least 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2050
  • Retire all coal generation by 2030 and reduce reliance on fossil fuels
  • Integrate new technologies responsibly by modernizing the electric grid and partnering with customers to create distributed energy resources throughout the community
  • Increase renewable energy and incorporate storage resources

To help manage future energy-related costs and adapt to a changing energy industry, Springs Utilities is pursuing several key initiatives, starting with its entry into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) on August 1, 2022.

According to Springs Utilities, becoming a member of SPP benefits customers by helping to insulate them from a volatile energy market, enhancing the current and future reliability of the electric grid, and expanding the ability to meet the organization’s clean energy goals.

By early 2024, Springs Utilities plans to add the 175 MW Pike Solar project to its system. When built, it will be the largest solar facility on the organization’s electric grid. After adding Pike Solar to the existing solar, wind and hydro resources, renewable energy is estimated to represent 27% of Colorado Springs Utilities’ energy portfolio.

To learn more about the Sustainable Energy Plan and the future of Colorado Spring’s responsible energy generation, head to csu.org/Pages/SustainableEnergyPlan