Guest Blog by: Gary Greeno
This country (and the Western world) seems hell bent on eliminating carbon emissions to “Stop Climate Change” or “Stop Global Warming” as it used to be called. Carbon is said to be the culprit. Carbon stored by plants for billions of years which provided oxygen to animals in exchange for carbon dioxide so that both could live with the help of the sun. The stored carbon in the form of coal, oil and gas provided the means to lift nations out of poverty. Will wind and solar power be the new savior? Coal plants and coal mining seem to be doomed. What’s next?
Next is the internal combustion engine (ICE.) What is the price? Will we willingly forgo the freedom that oil and gas provided us? Can renewable electric energy take its place? Will we willingly accept infill density increases, transportation restrictions (bike lanes), public instead of private transportation, higher gas and electric rates, electric supply rationing, blackouts or brown outs necessary to achieve zero carbon emissions? Will electric vehicles be better than ICE vehicles?
Colorado Springs Utilities is a monopoly owned by the city, controlling Natural Gas, Electricity, Water and Sewer Services with rates and policy controlled by Colorado Springs City Council.
My electric bill will jump 8% due to an “Electric Cost Adjustment” (ECA) and my natural gas bill will double due the Gas Cost Adjustment surcharge passed (GCA) by City Council in March of this year. You can look forward to your gas bill doubling all next year!
Though blamed on the 4 day February cold snap that caused blackouts in Texas, I wonder if the “temporary one year” natural gas surcharge will pay for the $100 million cost of the natural gas fueled generators being installed at Martin Drake Power plant to make up some of the power generating capacity lost due to dismantling Drake next year.
“No single product that we use in everyday life consumes more energy than a car. The furnace in the average home basement is a distant second, and there are far more cars than homes.” The ‘energy transition’ myth,Springs Gazette, Sunday, October 11, 2020; Section: Sunday Perspective by MARK P. MILLS, Washington Examiner
ICE vehicles use gasoline or diesel. There is an incredible amount of energy stored in a gallon of gas. How much electricity would it take to replace that energy?
Electric Vehicles (EVs) use electric power measured in Kilowatts per hour – “KWH”. 10 one-hundred-watt bulbs left on for an hour consume one kilowatt hour of power and cost about 12 cents per KWH.
According to one of the online calculators, calculateme.com, a gallon of gas contains about 33 KWH of equivalent electrical energy. A gallon of diesel fuel contains about 41 KWH, but big trucks and trains are not mandated to convert (yet!)
California will require 100% EVs by 2035. Biden wants carbon free electricity by 2035 and zero carbon by 2050! Renewables are said to be the answer. “Free electricity from the sun and wind!” …. How will the change to EV’s affect us?
Since Colorado Springs is about 10% of Colorado population, I estimate that we will use about 10% of the gasoline sold in Colorado. The amount of gasoline sold in Colorado can be found on the “Motor Fuel Tax Reports”.
In Colorado Springs, about 196 million gallons of gas was consumed in 1998, 198 million gallons in 1999 and 235 million gallons in 2020. That gasoline represents an equivalent energy 6.47 billion KWH in 1998, 6.5 billion KWH in 1999 and 7.8 billion KWH in equivalent energy in 2020. That’s 7.8 billion KWH in 2020 of equivalent energy that is not provided by the electrical grid!
If CSP continued to use gasoline at the same rate through 2035, it would equal an astounding 9.219 billion KWH of energy not provided by our electric grid.
That is 11 and a half times the existing grid capacity available today!
But EV’s might get more mileage from 33 KWH than an ICE vehicle gets from a gallon of gas so we wouldn’t have to add all that capacity.
Electric cars can be pretty efficient. According to Kelly Bluebook’s Nick Kurczewski in a Feb 19, 2021 article
“ …we enlisted the help of John Voelcker, a longtime automotive journalist and industry analyst who’s spent years specializing in electric vehicles. He’s heard every argument that’s been made for (and against) electric vehicle ownership, including the cost of recharging compared to traditional refueling.” Voelcker says ““A conservative rule of thumb is that an electric car gets 3 to 4 miles per KWH,” according to Voelcker.
That is amazing! Theoretically, such a car could get between 100 and 132 miles per gallon of gas if that energy were converted to electricity. 33 KWH times 3 or 4 Mi/KWH = 100 or 132 miles per KWH. However, “theoretically” may not be achievable in the real world.
According to a study by Consumer Reports, by Patrick Olsen, February 13, 2019, “Buying an electric car for a cold climate?” Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports says “EV buyers who drive in colder climates should strongly consider getting a car with a range about double what their daily driving needs are, so they’re not left stranded in a cold snap.” Why is that?
According to the article, colder weather causes the battery to lose voltage and power output. So, your mileage may drop to 1.5 to 2 miles per KWH in your EV during winter months.
Let us not forget that road construction and maintenance are funded by taxes on gas and diesel. The more EV’s the less money for roads. There is already consideration being given to creating a means to tax EVs by the miles driven.
The electric grid must add capacity to replace the energy used by internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles if EV’s are to be used! The capacity of our electrical grid is measured in Megawatts (MW). Current capacity of our grid is 0.796 billion Watts (796 MW) 
Because EV’s get more miles per KWH than ICE vehicles, my research says the grid will have to add an additional 1,745 MWH for summer driving or up to 4,320 MWH for winter driving. Is Colorado Springs Utilities prepared to add five and a half times the existing capacity for winter driving for no more than “2% increase in rates and zero impact on reliability”? 
Well, electric vehicles are on the horizon, but maybe they won’t dominate by 2035, it might take longer because it takes time to get rid of 250 million ICE vehicles according to the New York Times. Only 1 percent of those cars are electric now. They say that only 13% will be electric by 2035 due to slow fleet turnover. Gosh, maybe CSU would only have to add 13% of that 4, 320 Mega Watts by 2035. Perhaps only 6% by 2030. Let’s see, that’s only 260 additional MWH by 2030 or 561 additional MWH by 2035.
Once the two coal generating plants (Drake and Nixon) (414 MW) are shut down by 2030, the Colorado Springs Utilities plans to have 650 MW of wind and solar power capacity with more than 400 MW of battery backup capacity. Even with the 167 MW at Drake from the replacement Natural Gas Generators and 60 MW from Birdsall for a total of 877 MW capacity, is that enough to power the additional 260 MWH demand from EV’s? NOT!
Since wind and solar power is unreliable if the sun don’t shine or the wind don’t blow, plans are to add 400 megawatts of battery backup.
So why do you need batteries with renewables when you didn’t with carbon fueled generators? Carbon is an energy source captured by plants and stored as coal, gas or oil. If you will, it is stored energy, like a carbon battery. When you are running low on coal or gas or oil, you buy more so you can keep on delivering electricity when your customers need it. If your customers need 796 MWH, you burn enough coal to create the steam to spin the turbines to generate 796 million watts in an hour and burn more coal to generate another 796 Megawatts the second hour. That’s why you need a pile of coal out the back door. Coal is cheaper than solar with battery backup!
Renewable energy is different, you only get “cheap” energy when the sun shines or the wind blows, if neither happens, your grid doesn’t get any power and the lights go out. To do what plants did, you have to have a means of storing the energy so it will be available when your customers need it, like at night. Batteries serve that purpose, with a couple of differences. You can’t keep them outside; you need to build a building for them and if they run down before the sun starts to shine or the wind starts to blow, you can’t run out the back door and bring in some more coal. The lights go out unless you somehow cut back on demand with demand side management or brown outs or blackouts in one part of town so you can keep the lights on in another part of town.
Batteries run out of energy and must be recharged. If your customers need 800 Megawatts per hour and you have a 400-Megawatt battery, you only get a half hour of power before the lights go out unless you have a pile of coal and a coal fired generator or the sun starts to shine or the wind starts to blow again. The US has the largest coal reserves in the world with China ranked 3rd.
Another issue with solar is the amount of land devoted to solar panels to generate the required electricity. Take for example the Grazing Yak solar farm. The “farm” occupies 278 acres near Calhan and generates 35 MW with no battery backup.
The farm requires 7.94 acres per megawatt. If solar farms were used to provide the 260 MW of power needed for EV’s, it would require 2,064 acres or 3 ¼ square miles of land. How much vegetation and dependent wild life would be sacrificed to provide for EV’s in that case?
CSU is committed to purchase the electricity from Grazing Yak for the next 25 years.
There was a great deal of interest by the audience at the CIT forum (March 10) at the Church for All Nations with 13 candidates for city council on stage about the power outages in Texas in February and about the ability of Colorado Springs Utilities to avoid the same. There seems to be little interest in the media or the candidates for what might happen to the grid if demand from the EVs dominate the grid in 2035. In view of the long planning cycles for the electric grid, perhaps it is time for increased interest!
Is it wise to ignore the elephant in the room with EV’s?
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Footnotes and Citations:
 Capacity lost due to dismantling Drake = 207 Mega Watts, capacity gained by adding 6 natural gas generators = 167 Mega Watts.
 Using the formula for future value of a present amount at a growth rate of 1% per year (estimated annual CSP population growth), I projected gasoline usage out through 2035.
 A kilowatt hour is one thousand (1 Kilo) watts per hour (KWH). A 100-watt incandescent electric light bulb consumes 100 watts of power every second. If left on for an hour, it consumes 100 Watts per hour. 10 of such bulbs would consume 1000 watts in an hour = 1 KWH. A power generating facility is rated by the amount of wattage (power) it can generate. Typically, a generating facility is rated in million watts (MW) it can produce. For example, the Martin Drake generating plant is capable of providing 207 million watts (MW). It is capable of providing 207 MW every hour (MWH). Your electric bill charge is based on the number of Kilo Watts per hour used by your home (KWH). My monthly usage averages about 1100 KWH at 12 cents per KWH ($132.00 per month). But the Electric Cost Adjustment of an additional penny per KWH that brings my cost to ($143.00 per month).
 Courtesy of Dan Nichols, retired Lt. Colonel, US Army.
 2021-2022 CSU grid Capacity:
Carbon: Ray D. Nixon = 207 MW, Martin Drake = 207, 6 Gas Units @ Drake = 167, Birdsall = 60. Total = 641 MWH
Solar: Palmer = 60 MW, Grazing Yak = 35, Wind: Peetz = 60. Total = 155
Grand Total = 796 MWH.
 As told to City Council Candidate Matt Zelenok by the CSU Utilities CEO Aram Benyamin.
 KRDO, June 26, 2020 “Friday, the CSU board voted 7-2 to close the Drake by 2023 and the Ray Nixon Plant, south of Colorado Springs, by 2030.”
 KRDO News, June 26, 2020 “Coal Plant in Downtown Colorado Springs to Close in 2023. “Friday, the CSU board voted 7-2 to close the Drake by 2023 and the Ray Nixon Plant, south of Colorado Springs, by 2030. CSU says it gets 416 megawatts of coal-fired power. Instead, CSU will be relying on 500 megawatts of new wind energy, 150 megawatts of solar power, and more than 400 megawatts of battery storage.”
 Technology exists to scrub coal smoke and remove all pollutants. A Solar Website, Understandsolar.com says” When the costs of coal are compared to solar coupled with storage, coal is by far the cheaper choice”
 Last week a young lady from CSU dropped by my house and asked if I would like to sign up for a CSU demand side management plan where CSU could manage my electricity usage..
There are some valid points here, but I’ll illuminate with my particular situation. Last summer, I put in solar panels, with Blue Raven Solar, (that I now work for, here in Colorado Springs) to offset my household’s carbon emissions. In the fall, we purchased a 2014 Chevy Volt as our tester EV. After calculating the cost efficiency between kWh and a gallon of gas, powering my commute with kWh was anywhere between $1-2 cheaper, per (e)gallon, depending on what grade of gas (87 vs. 91) and where it is being purchased (Kum n Go vs. Costco Gas). This year, to continue to offset our electric usage after purchasing the vehicle, we’re looking into putting in even more panels.
No, our vehicle will not typically be charged during the day when I’m driving about, and will most certainly be charged at night when the sun won’t be shining. With that being said, however, our carbon usage will still be offset because we are part of CSU’s net metering program; which actually puts *less* strain on the power grid, not more. Once we have the second installment of solar panels, we also plan on switching over to CSU’s Time of Day (ETR) rate, which will be EVEN CHEAPER for our family, as well. However, even if we stayed on CSU’s Standard (E1R) rate plan, because we are still working on the net-metering credit system, we will not be subject to their rate increases for the next THIRTY YEARS. And solar panels are known to continue producing electricity far beyond that.
EV’s are not the one-stop solution, I agree with you there. However, they are part of the renewables solution to slow the impact of climate change at a drastically cheaper cost than to continue ‘business as usual.’ The reason, I believe, more people haven’t gone solar/EV/renewable is because it is a complex subject, and there is a lot of misinformation around this conversation.
For example, your ninth citation (“When the costs of coal are compared to solar coupled with storage, coal is by far the cheaper choice”) is a dated source, written five years ago, where the data is just as dated. But aside from this, it also is making the comparison between coal fired plants and large-scale government-subsidized solar developments/farms. As a matter of fact, that very article also states “It’s important to remember that these costs are for utility-scale solar power plants, not residential solar installations, which see much higher construction costs than both utility-scale solar as well as coal-fired power plants.”
My point? Do your due diligence, because not every home and homeowner qualifies; but EVERY home/homeowner that does qualify should have solar panels on their home and at least one EV if it is a 2+ car household. After all, we still plan on trading in our gas-powered Accord for a fuel-efficient 4WD truck in the near future.
However, the data is there. EV’s are cheaper to drive, and to maintain. Solar panels on a net metering program offers tens of thousands of savings to the homeowner. Solar panels also increase your home’s equity. Win-win?
I appreciate your comments, thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog. I have a few rebuttals to the points you raised.
Banking your excess electricity on the grid.
CSU Utilities says: “Net Metering is a program that allows our customers to “bank” unused solar generation on the grid until a time when your homes energy usage is greater than your solar production. This allows net daytime generation to be used at night, and net summer excess to be used during the winter months.” As it is today, there is no way to store the excess energy from your panels on the grid, so how is the excess energy generated by your panels during the day banked on the grid so it can be used by others? That’s not the way it works according to CSU residential customer service.
Here is an excellent article from VOX about the electrical grid.
CSU is misleading you. There is an excellent article on VOX ,“Clean Energies Threaten to Overwhelm the Grid” that says “today’s grid is a one-way path from the generators to the consumer”. The only purpose for the second meter on the Net Metering Plan is to calculate the difference between what power you used from the grid and what power your solar panels generated. You get a “Net” credit if your panels generated more power than you used from the grid.
The only “less strain” you put on the grid and reduce your carbon footprint is not from the net metering plan, but from the lower daytime demand for electricity at your house due to the electricity provided by your solar panels. And this is only true if your electric grid is powered by fossil fuels. Only nuclear or geothermal sources provide “clean” energy. At night, your panels are producing zero watts of power just when you need more power to charge your car and keep the lights on. If you have a power outage, you are stuck and your freezer starts to thaw unless you have spent thousands of dollars more to add batteries to store the excess power, if any, from your solar panels.
Since there is no power given back to the grid, other consumers not on net metering plans must subsidize the credit given to solar power customers by paying more to offset the credit given. This hidden tax affects the cost of housing and raises the cost of doing business. That’s not the only hidden tax. I have read that Tesla could not afford to make EV’s unless they were allowed to sell carbon credits from their factories to businesses who weren’t “clean”. Solar installations are subsidized by the federal government by deducting 26% of the bill from your tax bill. Non solar users and renters who pay taxes make up the difference for this “hidden tax”. This is income redistribution and if non-solar users realize that attempting to “stop climate change” isn’t worth the cost, they will vote to eliminate such.
And according to Judy at CO Springs Utilities, it is absolutely not true that you will not have a rate increase for the next thirty years! And if you select a rebate at the end of the year, you will get about 2 cents per kilowatt hour for any excess. Be careful of switching to ETR (Time of day rates). When I analyzed my actual usage over the last two years, assuming my peak usage was about 10% of my total usage, the residential rate (E1R) was about 15% cheaper than the Time-of-day rates.
I am told it costs about $23,000 to add solar to your home. To use the excess power from your solar panels in the daytime when you need it at night or when there is a power outage, you will have to store the excess energy they produce at home in batteries.
For batteries, you have two, top of the line choices, the Tesla Powerwall or the Generac PWRCell. The Powerwall ranges in price “A single Powerwall can run from $12,700 to $14,000 for 6 KW covering your emergency circuits, lights and outlets, with additional units running between $10,000 to $11,000 each. See “How Do Tesla Solar Roofs Work? Are They Worth the Investment? ” at Greenmatters.com. A Generac PWRcell with 6 battery modules would run about $15,000 to $17,000” , enough to provide whole house electricity. See https://southern-energy.com/tesla-powerwall-vs-generac-pwrcell/
A minimum of a 240 Volt circuit would be required to charge your Electric Truck.
You admit you will have to charge your Volt at night. Your panels don’t work at night so you need the grid to provide the power to charge your car. The 2014 Chevy Volt has a battery capacity of 16.5 KWH, so each night you may require an additional 16.5 KWH per night from the grid that you didn’t need when your car ran strictly on gasoline. At 12 cents per kilowatt hour, that will cost you an additional $60 per month.
The same goes for that new electric truck you want to add. You probably cannot afford the time it takes to charge your Volt off of the 110-volt circuit in your house and you certainly can’t afford the 13 hours to charge your truck nor could you as it will require a level two charger for longer range vehicles, so you will have to add a level two charging circuit for the truck for about $1000 for two 20 amp breakers ganged together to provide a 240 volt 40 amp circuit or $2000 for the 4 20 amp breakers to meet the 80 Amp charging requirement for the extended range Ford 150 Lightning that costs at least $60,000 . (See https://www.voltsmonster.com/ev-news-2022-ford-new-tesla-e-surfboard-more/)
The Chevy Bolt is having trouble with their batteries catching fire. Until fixed, you must not park your Bolt in the garage.
When you add the $23,000 for the solar panels plus an additional $23,000 for the second set of panels to power your truck, plus the $17,000 worth of Generac batteries all told maybe $63.000 to go solar, It may cost you more than your think to run an EV instead of an ICE vehicle. Which proves your point, ““It’s important to remember that … residential solar installations, … see much higher construction costs than both utility-scale solar as well as coal-fired power plants.” Once both of your vehicles are EV’s, they will require more energy to charge than your entire house consumes!
I concede that my 2001 Nissan uses 7 times more energy to go the same distance as a 4 Mi/KWH EV. However, driving an ICE vehicle that meets 2021 CAFÉ standards of about 40 Miles per gallon shaves that difference to about 3 times more energy than an EV. But when you amortize the cost of adding solar panels and batteries for 30 years to your home and allocate that proportion of energy usage attributable to your electric vehicles are you really saving that much? EV efficiency ratings do not take those costs into account. Is it worth eliminating fossil fuels in the U.S. only to see other countries use those fuels to improve their standard of living and take jobs overseas such as steel making and computer chips? Is energy independence a strategic asset? Is attempting to slow climate change worth the cost?
Who knows Karin, you may be on the right track. As more and more energy consumers like you add more solar and more batteries to charge their cars and keep the freezer from thawing during outages, they will reduce their dependence on utility power and the demand for centralized power will decline. Utilities will be forced to raise their prices causing even more users to go solar, in spite of the cheaper cost to build utility scale power plants. Thus, centralized utility companies may be forced to decentralize and spend more money to revise their grids from top-down sourcing to bottom-up sourcing by actually using you and your neighbor’s excess power. Is it worth the cost? Will such drive up the cost of housing even further. Will we have more homeless? More poor?
Carbon Dioxide is not a poison, it is a necessary ingredient to life. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between plants and animals is critical to both their existence. The more carbon dioxide and warmth, the more plants. The more plants the better people eat and thrive.
Can we even slow down climate change? If we successfully convert to a renewable energy economy, will other nations take advantage of cheaper fossil fuels to improve their standard of living and leave us in the dust?
So Karin, I am making a $14,000 bet that EV’s are going to create a surge in demand that utility companies will not be able to provide without blackouts, brown outs and/or demand side management (turning off your air conditioner when they need to). I am having a whole house natural gas fired electric generator installed so I can keep the lights on and the freezer running when the sun don’t shine or the wind don’t blow.