The “Centennial State” Is Giving Coal The Cold Shoulder

State Economy

The population of the “Centennial State”, Colorado is approximately 5.89 million people[1]. Colorado is the 20th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Colorado’s economy was ranked 16th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the aerospace, bioscience, defense, mining, oil, natural gas, agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2004, Colorado enacted a mandatory Renewable Energy Standard, requiring investor owned utilities to sell 30% of the electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030[4].

In January 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis released the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which details how the state will reduce emissions by 26% of 2005 levels by 2025, and 50% by 2030.

In May 2021, Colorado’s utilities[5] used renewable energy (37.8 %), coal (33.2 %), natural gas (29.0 %), and to generate electricity. Wind, solar, hydropower, and biomass are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Colorado.

Colorado’s use of inexpensive renewable energy and natural gas contributes to the below average cost of electricity. In May 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Colorado was 12.61 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.71 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Colorado include:

  • 500 MW Wind Project – In September 2020, Xcel commissioned the Cheyenne Ridge wind farm at a site approximately 150 miles southeast of the state’s capital, Denver.
  • 300 MW Solar Project – British energy company, Lightsource BP is continuing on the Bighorn Solar Project at a site approximately 115 miles south of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 200 MW Wind Project – American utility, NextEra Energy is continuing work on the Niyol Wind Project at a site approximately 125 miles northeast of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 200 MW Solar Project – South Korean multinational company, 174 Power Global announced is continuing work to gain approval to build the Turkey Creek Solar project at a site approximately 155 miles southeast of Denver.
  • 150 MW Wind Project – In August 2021, electric cooperative, Holy Cross Energy commissioned the Arriba Wind Farm at a site approximately 100 miles southeast of Denver.
  • 140 MW Solar Project – German renewable energy company, Juwi has announced plans to build the Coyote Gulch solar project at a site approximately 250 miles southwest of Denver. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 123 MW Solar Project – In September 2021, American power company, Invenergy has announced plans to build the Boutique Solar project at a site approximately 250 miles southwest of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2025.
  • 110 MW Solar Project – Juwi has announced plans to build the Dolores Canyon project at a site approximately 200 miles southwest of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 104 MW Wind Project – In May 2021, Spanish renewable energy company, EDP Renováveis commissioned the Crossing Trails Wind Farm at a site approximately 135 miles southeast of Denver.
  • 80 MW Solar Project – In May 2021, American renewable energy company, Guzman Energy announced plans to build the Garnet Mesa solar project at a site approximately 150 miles southwest of Denver. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining in Colorado began in 1859[6] near the town of Boulder. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, forges, and furnaces. In 2020, eleven coal mines operated in Colorado.

In 2010, 71.9% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[7]. In May 2021, 33.2 % of Colorado’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease?

  1. Economics 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.
  2. EnvironmentCoal 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 contaminated the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

In February 2021, Colorado’s largest electric utility, Xcel  announced it will add 2,300 MW of wind projects over the next ten years. Xcel’s goal is to cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 85% by 2030.

The move to renewable energy across America is being driven by concerns over climate change, environment, and economics. The utilities in the Centennial State are joining the move from coal to wind and solar.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

 

[1] Colorado Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Colorado  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Colorado State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6]Rocky Mountain News, 6 October 1859,

[7] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Colorado Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

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

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