Coal is a passing source of energy. Great Britain, the home of the coal-powered Industrial Revolution – a place where coal had been burnt continuously for five generations of humanity, has glimpsed its new path forward this year.
Great Britain's record coal free run continues to get longer and longer.
As of 15.12 today it's been 10 days straight (240 hours) without coal.
The first week without coal since 1882 was only a few weeks ago!
Could we see the first coal free month this summer?! https://t.co/6PxHvqL01u
— Simon Evans (@DrSimEvans) May 27, 2019
In the United States, we saw 16 GW of coal retired last year, continuing the trend of no “net new” fossils since 2006. And across the country we are seeing electric utilities – even in those not politically inclined to do so – stating unequivocally that its time to trade out the fossils.
As the latest, Denver-based wholesale power provider Guzman Energy has proposed to Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association to “finance the accelerated retirement of nearly 50% of Tri-State’s coal capacity not already slated for early closure” and “replace the retired coal generation with a new portfolio that is in excess of 70% renewable.” Three coal plants in total, two in Colorado and one in New Mexico would have been closed by 2025 under the plan.
Tri-State declined the opportunity – for now – stating the deal “lacked any specific or meaningful detail or terms”, that Guzman’s terms to immediately enter into exclusive negotiations wasn’t necessarily in the best interests for Tri-State members, and because the non-profit Tri-State believes it can do it for cheaper than the for-profit Guzman.
The deal structure would see Guzman building approximately 1.2 GW of evenly split wind and solar power, as well energy storage all backed by natural gas. Guzman noted that the new source would replace all of the lost capacity and energy, per Tri-State’s definitions.
Per Clean Cooperative, Tri-State already plans to retire 527 MW of coal at two locations before 2025. Guzman’s proposal would add the 253 MW Escalante plant in New Mexico, as well the 448 MW Unit 3 at the Craig Generation Station, and the 410 MW Unit 2 that is partially owned (24%) by Tri-State at the same location.
But there is also push-back from the coal mining industry. Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck commented on the potential closure of the Craig coal plant and mining facility, as proposed by Guzman:
If a coal miner or power plant employee is making $80,000, where are they going to? What are their options? Leave the community or leave the state … You are talking about crippling a community financially for a very long time.
Guzman said part of the package would be “substantial financial assistance to communities negatively impacted by the early retirement of coal plants.”
Also included in this proposal was a tool by which Guzman Energy would compensate Tri-State for increasing the cap on its members’ self-generation rights from 5% upwards.
Local politicians have jumped on the news to put pressure on Tri-State:
Tri-State has another option to reduce carbon pollution, this combined with SB19-236 put Colorado on a path to end coal-fired power, drastically reduce emissions and improve air quality #climatechange #copolitics @kcbecker @SteveFenberg https://t.co/JTMlsyQr0j
— Chris Hansen (@HansenForCO) May 28, 2019
Per an analysis by Vibrant Clean Energy, it will take approximately 2.8 GW of solar power, 8 GW of wind and 765 MW / 3 GWh of energy storage to allow Colorado to shut down its 4 GW of coal by 2025. But it can do so while also lowering electric rates by 5%.
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As a resident of CO I would like to say that Tri-State can’t die soon enough. I hope their co-ops continue to leave. As the saying goes, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”
Congrats to GB for leading the way.
BTW, EIA was forecasting 4GW of coal retirements this year. In the first quarter that number is already up to 3.335GW and, according to their March 2019 data we should see at least 7GW of retirements. But, since coal retirements are now announced with as little as a month notice this will surely go up.
Also as a current resident of CO but having lived elsewhere and having seen the decimating effects of the closure of coal fired powerplants on a community, I personally feel that not enough emphasis is being placed on the workers. Sure, it feels great to say, “let’s be more green, lower utility rates for us in the Front Range, and feel good about ourselves,” but what about the workers and families who have lived on the Western slope and in these mining and natural resource extraction communities for generations? Where are they going to go? Are you ready to have them come to the Front Range homeless, jobless, and utterly angry at everybody who forced them out? Mr. Beck brings up a very valid point: if you do this, and you don’t compensate the workers and communities for the lost sales tax, property taxes, & income taxes generated from people working in said communities, those communities are going to die. I too, if I was a commissioner, want to have exact details of “substantial financial assistance” to my county’s workers. If it’s, “20k and a phone number to the job hotline,” get out of here. If it’s a years salary or close to it and an option to come on board with the new renewables power generating plants and the need for workers to care and maintain those places, then yes I would listen.
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