Renewable energy advocates rally at CSU meeting

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As Colorado Springs Utilities develops its future plan of energy generation, demonstrators rallied before the meeting Thursday to tell the decision makers they want renewable energy to dominate the plan. 

“Over the next 18 months, this is when citizens should be speaking directly to Colorado Springs Utilities and city council,” said Lindsay Facknitz, one of the demonstrators.

Facknitz was one of the dozens of supporters of renewable energy rallying at the CSU building, with signs saying “Clean Energy for All” and “Clean Energy Jobs Now.”

Facknitz said Colorado Springs is well-positioned to usher in the cleaner forms of electricity generation for both economic and environmental reasons.

“Across the state of Colorado, you see a switchover to renewable energies,” Facknitz said. “Batteries, wind a and solar are cheaper than coal now, and are projected to get cheaper for the future.”

A study released by the group Energy Innovation in March of this year shows 74% of the coal plants in the United States generate electricity at a higher cost than what solar and wind would cost. In Colorado Springs, renewables would cost more than 25% less, the study says.

Studying 2018 numbers, coal generation is cheaper in Pueblo and southern Colorado, but the study projects renewables to be cheaper by 2025.

While the creation of energy is cheaper for renewables, the cost to switch over is not.

“Many people look at the generation, which is the source of electricity, but we also have to look at how we get that to our customers as well as how our customers use that energy,” said Cindy Newsome, the general manager of public affairs for CSU.

Thursday’s meeting began an 18-month process of receiving community input and development of an “electric integration resource plan” they are required to create for the next 20 years.

“We have several experts across the organization who are looking at the best timeline and the best option to balance the reliability that our customers expect with reasonable rates and ensuring we get customer input to prepare for that energy future as well,” Newsome said.

Newsome said they are looking at all options in order to best implement the plan, including wind, solar, and, as one presenter proposed, gas.

The need for a consistent source of energy weighs in on these decisions, but as Mayor John Suthers has said, energy storage via batteries has made significant technological advances. 

“When the sun is shining, it’s great,” Newsome said. “We can generate energy. When the wind is blowing, we can also generate energy. But, when those stop, we also have to power the city for our business and residential customers. So, battery storage then allows us to provide and operate and provide that reliable service, 24/7 around the clock.”

Suthers, both in his reelection campaign and after the election, has said he foresees the closure of the Martin Drake Power plant by the mid-2020s, rather than the deadline of 2035.

While Thursday’s meeting wasn’t directly related to the Drake closure, it does weigh in the minds of both the organizers with the city and organizers with the demonstrators.

“We want Colorado Springs Utilities and our city council to really reap the economic benefits of switching to a cheaper source of energy and a cleaner one too,” Facknitz said.

You can give your input for the plan online at csu.org/Pages/energy-vision-r.aspx through April 21.

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