Colorado Continues To Move Away From Coal

The population of the state of Colorado is approximately 5.84 million people[1]. In September 2020, state utilities used coal (36.2%), natural gas (35.1%) and renewable energy (28.7%) to generate electricity[2]. Currently, wind, solar, hydropower and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in Colorado.

Colorado’s use of natural gas and renewable energy contribute to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In September 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Colorado was 13.20 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.55 ¢ per kWh.

Colorado is one of thirty states that has an enforceable statewide renewable portfolio standard. The standard requires that 30% of the electricity sold by investor utilities in the state comes from renewable sources by 2030.

In 2010, 68% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. In 2020, 36% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why?

  1. Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.
  2. Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[3].
  3. The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.

Colorado utilities have announced plans to close the three coal-fired power plants in the Yampa Project. The power plant has a total capacity of 1,285 MW and is located approximately 150 miles northwest of the state capital, Denver.

Recent renewable energy projects in Colorado include:

  • 200 MW Wind Project – American utility, NextEra Energy has announced that construction on the Niyol Wind Project, located approximately 125 miles northeast of Denver will begin by February 2021.
  • 300 MW Solar Project – In October 2020, British solar developer, Lightsource BP commenced work on the Bighorn Solar Project, which is located in Pueblo, Colorado. The project is forecast to be completed by year-end 2021.
  • 500 MW Wind Project – In September 2020, American utility, Xcel commissioned the Cheyenne Ridge wind farm, located approximately 150 miles southeast of Denver.
  • Transportation Electrification – In December 2020, Xcel received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to build electric vehicle charging stations and to support the conversion of school buses, government, and business fleet vehicles to electric.

New technology is causing the cost to generate power from wind and solar to decline, while the cost to mine and transport coal continues to increase. Colorado’s utilities move from coal to clean, green renewable energy is being driven by compelling economic and environmental reasons.


Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] Colorado Population 2020, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Energy Information Agency,

[3] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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