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Letter: Drake shutdown is about control

       The goal of shutting down the Drake power plant is just a small and incremental part of a plan to cause our community and society as we know it to change everything in terms of how we live and prosper. While we would like to think that the Drake study will employ and determine the future of Drake in a rational method utilizing technical, economic and pragmatic approaches, it may not if we as ratepayers aren't engaged and vigilant.
      

This graphic points up a criticism about global warming advocates - that their predictions are skewed to the high side, exceeding actual temperatures.
Courtesy of Dick Standaert
In June 2010, The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) committed to a ”Climate Action Plan” and aggressively pursuing targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Because UCCS currently purchases all electricity and natural gas from Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), it is actively pursuing CSU to reduce the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of wind and solar as the means to reduce the institution's carbon dioxide emissions. UCCS is attempting to offload the cost of its climate action plan by increasing utility rates on all CSU ratepayers.
       In November 2011, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) released its “Pikes Peak Regional Sustainability Plan” which included the goals of reducing energy use in the region by 20 percent from a 2010 base line, and making considerable progress toward a 100 percent sustainable energy use by 2030. The Energy Task Group was funded in part by the Sierra Club and three members of the six-member group were Sierra and Green Cities Coalition members. To achieve the PPACG goals, CSU would need to shut down a high percentage of the coal- and natural gas- fired electricity generating plants that produce 90 percent of the electricity consumed by CSU ratepayers, and replace that production with more expensive and less reliable wind and solar. Natural gas and gasoline use would need to be aggressively reduced, causing huge disruptions in heating and transportation. Achievement of the PPACG's goals will increase control over every aspect of our daily lives and lead to a collapse of our economy.
       In September 2012, the Sierra Club issued a “Notice of Intent to Sue for Clean Air Act Violations at Drake and Nixon Power Plants” to CSU as part of its “Beyond Coal” campaign to shut down coal-fired plants in the U.S. More recently, the Sierra Club has initiated a new campaign to stop natural gas drilling and the building of natural gas-fired power plants. The Sierra Club opposes oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, which account for more than 90 percent of the energy used by man.
       Even after years of subsidies and mandates, wind and solar produce less than 1 percent of the energy used by man and do not scale up to economically replace fossil fuels. Costs to ratepayers have increased in every case where wind and solar are used to generate even small amounts of energy. Climate action plans, “Beyond Coal” and “Beyond Gas” campaigns must be opposed so we can keep Drake and our low energy costs.

       Dick Standaert

       Editor's note: A Westside resident, Standaert is a retired geologist who worked in the energy field for 30 years.
       Following up on his letter's assertions about UCCS and Colorado Springs Utilities, the Westside Pioneer sought feedback from both of those entities. The respective question/answers, communicated via e-mail, appear below.


       Standaert's assertion:
       "In June 2010, The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) committed to a 'Climate Action Plan' and aggressively pursuing targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by twenty percent by 2020, fifty percent by 2030 and eighty percent by 2050. Because UCCS currently purchases all electricity and natural gas from Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), it is actively pursuing CSU to reduce the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of wind and solar as the means to reduce the institution's carbon dioxide emissions. UCCS is attempting to offload the cost of its climate action plan by increasing utility rates on all CSU ratepayers."
      

       UCCS response #1 (from spokesperson Tom Hutton):
       Like more than 600 universities and many other large energy consumers, UCCS is actively seeking to make more efficient use of energy and is committed to reducing consumption of fossil fuels.
       In pursuing a Climate Action Plan, the university installed solar panels, high-efficiency lighting, and heating/cooling systems to make buildings more efficient. When appropriate, UCCS has purchased renewable energy credits in support of our overall goals. The cost of these upgrades was borne by the university as part of an investment strategy to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
       UCCS remains a large customer and vocal supporter of the Colorado Springs Utilities energy goals.
       Please call if you have additional questions. I very much appreciate your extension of this opportunity to respond.
      
       Pioneer: Noting your point about UCCS purchasing renewable energy credits from CSU, as a result of that, what percent of the energy UCCS gets from CSU is non-fossil-fuel at this time?
       Hutton (UCCS response #2, first part): About 14 percent of UCCS energy comes from non-fossil fuels. UCCS purchases some wind energy through the CSU wind power program. Other energy credits are purchased from another source, Renewable Choice Energy. A small amount of solar power is generated on campus with three installations.
       Pioneer: Also, you did not speak to the advocacy point raised in the letter. As a "vocal supporter," has UCCS urged CSU to continue reducing its use of fossil fuels? Perhaps had membership on the citizen committee involved in shaping CSU's EIRP [Electric Integrated Resource Plan]?
       Hutton (UCCS response #2, second part): UCCS has supported the energy vision of CSU's CEO Jerry Forte as it was shared more than four years ago. That energy vision preceded both the development of a UCCS plan and the EIRP. A UCCS representative was among the 20 or so representative members of the EIRP.
      
       Standaert's assertion:
       "In November 2011, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) released its 'Pikes Peak Regional Sustainability Plan,' which included the goals of reducing energy use in the region by 20 percent from a 2010 base line, and making considerable progress toward a 100 percent sustainable energy use by 2030... To achieve the PPACG goals, CSU would need to shut down a high percentage of the coal and natural gas-fired electricity generating plants that produce 90 percent of the electricity consumed by CSU ratepayers, and replace that production with more expensive and less reliable wind and solar. Natural gas and gasoline use would need to be aggressively reduced, causing huge disruptions in heating and transportation."
      
       Springs Utilities response #1 (from spokesperson Dave Grossman):
       Colorado Springs Utilities participated in the development of the PPACG sustainability plan, and we support the concept of increasing the sustainability of our region.
       The study defines sustainability as: "Acting in a manner that improves our quality of life by balancing economic vitality, a healthy vibrant community, and mindful stewardship of natural resources and the environment for current and future generations." Without measurable goals, it's difficult to say what the enterprise would need to do to "make considerable progress toward a 100 percent sustainable energy use by 2030."
       However, I can provide some perspective. In 2010 Colorado Springs drafted - and the Utilities Board [consisting of Colorado Springs City Council members] adopted - an Energy Vision as a starting point that can bring us together and provide a rallying point for future success: “By 2020, Colorado Springs Utilities will provide 20 percent of its total electric energy through renewable energy sources, reduce average customer use by 10 percent and maintain a 20 percent regional electric rate advantage.”
       At this point, we are on track to achieve the Energy Vision goals by 2020.
       It's important to note that in June 2013 the Utilities Board requested that the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) thoroughly review the Energy Vision and provide a recommendation for any changes. The board asked UPAC to consider federal and state energy regulatory trends, renewable and traditional energy costs and trends, public preference around renewables, electric usage reduction, electric rates and other factors. UPAC will present its findings/recommendation to the Utilities Board at the board meeting on April 16. You can follow the progress of UPAC's Energy Vision assignment at: https://www.csu.org/Pages/upac-b.aspx
      
       Pioneer: Your reply covered part of the letter portion I copied for you, but not all. Here is the part on which I would still appreciate a CSU response:
       "To achieve the PPACG goals, CSU would need to shut down a high percentage of the coal and natural gas fired electricity generating plants that produce 90 percent of the electricity consumed by CSU ratepayers, and replace that production with more expensive and less reliable wind and solar. Natural gas and gasoline use would need to be aggressively reduced causing huge disruptions in heating and transportation."
       Springs Utilities response #2 (from Grossman): The statement that 90 percent of our power is generated from natural gas and coal is correct. That number fluctuates some from season to season, but is generally true. As stated earlier, one of our Energy Vision goals is to increase the renewable portion to 20 percent by 2020.
       The PPACG's "100 percent sustainable energy use by 2030" goal is not specific about what percent of the community's energy supply would need to come from wind and solar. These power sources are intermittent, and technology does not yet exist to economically store large amounts of power for use when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. I can't speak to transportation, but I agree that it would be extremely unlikely that reliable power service could be maintained in our community if natural gas and coal were not used for electric generation.
       Most homes and businesses in our region use natural gas for heating. Feasible alternatives include propane, fuel oil or electricity.

(Posted 2/18/14)

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