On June 26th, as citizens were immersed in the never-ending news cycle of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and the latest on COVID-19, Colorado Springs environmentalists were making copious numbers of phone calls into the Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) board meeting. These environmentalists were chiming in on the goal to close the Martin Drake Power Plant sooner vs. closing it later, and offered their vote for an energy replacement option.
The CSU board —which is comprised of Colorado Springs City Council members— had narrowed the closure choices down to two energy option packages —16 and 17.\
Option 16 requires more natural gas plants to be built. The local environmentalists frowned upon the prospect of fracking for natural gas, and building more natural gas plants.
Option 17 relies heavily on wind and battery sources, and would allow already existing infrastructure to be converted to natural gas production. No new natural gas plants would need to be built.
According to CSU’s presentation, 125 citizens and 6 stakeholder groups have contacted CSU board members in recent months and the majority of them favored option 17. CSU staff agreed with the environmentalists that Option 17 was the best overall plan and would use a wider variety of energy sources and much less natural gas than option 16.
All CSU Board members agreed that closing the Martin Drake Power Plant was the most economical decision, as the cost to maintain the facility outweighs the benefits of keeping it running.
The closure plan would sell off unused Martin Drake power plant parts for scrap, but it’s unknown how much money that would raise. The plan would also sell the property at market rate, according to comments we received from Board member Andy Pico
If closing the Martin Drake Power Plant is the best financial decision, we’re in favor of it. However, whatever replaces the plant must be reliable and affordable. And we want to see all of the documentation.
In this meeting, Mayor John Suthers commented that closing the Martin Drake Power Plant was in the best interest of the community, as it offers an incredible opportunity to transform the downtown core. At SpringsTaxpayers.com, we don’t think that “transforming the downtown core,” should have any bearing on the decision to close a taxpayer and ratepayer-owned utility.
Councilmen Pico and Knight expressed concerns with option 17. Knight said the plan was based on wishful thinking in regards to batteries, as he doesn’t believe the technology is ready yet. Pico said when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, it will be a risk for the city. Also, Pico believes there is a high market risk, as renewables are driven by government intervention. Once the Production Tax Credit expires, the markets may shift. Future costs of energy are unpredictable.
All other CSU Board members expressed support for option 17, with some saying that they could revert to option 16, if option 17 proves to be too challenging. Councilman Williams admitted the cost of option 17 is speculative in the long-term.
City Council President Skorman called the decision to close Martin Drake Power Plant a, “historic moment,” and noted Colorado Springs is, “a city that is considered to be conservative”. Skorman then stated, “that conservatism is, also, being thrifty.” He went on to say, “being thrifty is having as many people buy in, and to be as aggressive as we can to help them use less energy so we can move forward as a city that is going to be as clean as possible.”
We agree many conservatives are thrifty. But conservative spending means that politicians are thrifty with our tax money, not that government requires taxpayers to be thrifty with their own money. People have the choice about where in their family’s budget they want to be thrifty. Where to spend one’s money is up to the individual —not the government.
Mr. Skorman’s comments also mentioned the term, “Demand Side Management (DSM)”, and offered the best glimpse of Colorado Springs’ energy future and the direction CSU will try to push the ratepayers. Wikipedia defines DSM as: “the modification of consumer demand for energy through various methods such as financial incentives and behavioral change through education.”
CSU plans to change our behavior so that we use less energy and we’re going to see an increasing push toward that goal. We’ve also recently been required to use less water, through watering restrictions. Will gas and electric usage also be restricted in the future? Sounds a lot like what we’ve been hearing out of the once great state of California.
What does the future hold, and will Colorado Springs have enough energy supply for its growing population? We’re concerned. While we’re certain the downtown skyline views will change, ordinary residents like their homes to have heat in the winter, and central air in the summer. Will those be labeled luxury items that some won’t be able to afford? For those who can afford energy, will restrictions be put in place just as they have been for water?
At this time, CSU is estimating that ratepayers will see a 0.5-1% increase in their utility bills with the new energy plan. That includes aggressive Demand Side Management (that’s where CSU modifies your behavior, as described above), and relies on consumers using less energy.
Watch all of the City Council members comments about the new energy plan here.
Watch the full meeting here.
Seven of the nine CSU Board members were joyful and laughing as they wrapped up the meeting with a vote. Option 17 passed on a 7-2 vote, and the Martin Drake Power Plant will close in 2023. Board members Pico and Knight voted no.
Ready or not, we’re all on this ride toward an uncertain energy future for Colorado Springs. Your humble watchdogs at SpringsTaxpayers.com will keep you posted.