The Office of Sustainability at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) organized the 3rd annual Sustainnovation conference which was held on April 10th, 2015. The theme this year was Climate Disruption. SECRES had a booth at the conference. A steady flow of students and community members came by to talk about renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The conference opened with a talk on the evening before from Winona LaDuke, a well known author, speaker and activist working for environmental causes and Native American justice. During panel discussions UCCS students and faculty highlighted the great work going on at UCCS. Keynote presentations from James White, Ph.D. (professor of Geological Sciences, CU Boulder) and Jennifer Cross, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, CSU) provided a wealth of information on climate change and how to influence the public to take action. Dr. White’s presentation was similar to one he gave in 2014. Dr. Cross has a TED talk here.
100 Colorado Springs residents turned out to learn about climate change from Dr. Charles (Chuck) Kutscher, Director of the Buildings and Thermal Systems Center at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The presentation was co-sponsored by Colorado Renewable Energy Society, and Pikes Peak Chapter, IEEE. It was held at the Carnegie Room, Penrose Library, Colorado Springs.
Climate change from fossil fuel emissions is happening today. Our understanding of the science of climate change and our ability to predict its potential effects on our habitat has increased substantially over the past several years. The Pentagon identifies climate change as a major cause of global destabilization. Addressing this challenge will require a combination of adaptation and a rapid transition away from carbon-based energy sources.
Dr. Kutscher’s presentation is available online.
The Chasing Ice trailer video shown can be located here. Watch for the full film to be shown at UCCS on April 20th, 2015.
Colorado Springs Independent reporter Matthew Schniper interviewed Dr. Kutscher in his office at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. The print edition contained an abridged version of the interview. Now the full interview is available online.
If you are interested in a textual summary of the presentation see the Jefferson County CRES chapter (JCRES) section of the December CRES newsletter.
The landscape of electrical power generation is changing more dramatically today than in the last 130 years, and the impact on municipal utilities is significant. Rising mining costs, new gas supplies from fracturing, plummeting solar and wind costs, antiquated power grids and health/environmental/climate impacts and regulations are just some of the issues driving this change.
Colorado State University Extension and the Southeast Colorado Renewable Energy Society (SECRES) will be co-hosting a panel discussion entitled “Municipal Electric Utilities: What Does the Future Hold” to identify the opportunities and challenges for municipal utilities in clean and renewable electricity. The discussion will be held at the El Paso County Extension Office – 17 N. Spruce St. in Colorado Springs – on Thursday May 7 from 6-8pm.
Introduction: Jan Martin, 2 term Colorado Springs City
Colorado State University’s Faces of Energy photo exhibit will be shown. The traveling exhibit is intended to tell the story of energy in Colorado through the eyes of its citizens. Hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic drinks will be served from 6:00 – 6:20pm with the panel running from 6:20 – 7:40pm and the event closing at 8pm.
Registration by Monday, May 4 is required in order to attend and $5 suggested donations will be accepted at the door. For more information and to register, visit www.ext.colostate.edu/munipanel
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The $70 million Black Hills Peaking Plant has already been approved by the PUC. Puebloans will be paying for this facility for many years, despite the fact that there are more cost effective and environmentally sound options. Learn from an experienced energy attorney and activist what’s wrong with the current system and what some of the options are for taking control and deciding our own energy future.
Susan Perkins is the Principal of Perkins Energy Law, a renewable energy law firm in the Denver Tech Center which has as its focus providing legal and energy policy assistance for the development of renewable and sustainable energy resources in Colorado. Ms. Perkins contributes to the formulation of local, state and national renewable energy policies, and represents a wide range of clients who share the common goal of advancing the use of renewable and sustainable energy resources. Ms. Perkins has practiced law for over thirty years, working initially with top energy law firms and later with a Fortune 200 independent oil company in legal and executive management positions of increasing responsibility.
This General Meeting of the Sierra Club Sangre de Cristo Group is co-sponsored by Re-Volt Pueblo. For more information Kiera Hatton-Sena (719) 248-5718. There is no cost to attend the meeting, and it is not necessary to be a member of the Sierra Club to attend.
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Response to the November 3, 2014 Gazette article by Stuart Sanderson, CEO of the Colorado Mining Association:
Colorado has been in the forefront in diversifying its economy and its electricity production by increasing its reliance on its rich renewable energy resources, while maintaining relatively low electricity rates. Portions of the Front Range which have sought opportunities to increase investments in innovative clean technologies have seen steady growth. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan provides new incentives to continue to modernize our electricity system while saving money over time.
Polls have proven time and again that those of us living in the West want to preserve our clean air and water. We understand that reducing pollution from our electricity and energy production plays a key part in preserving our quality of life. Climate protection ranks high among the goals of voters around the country, with voters in Colorado and other swing states overwhelmingly endorsing the proposed Clean Power Plan, including 61 percent of undecided voters and nearly half of Republican voters. Hart Research Associates, October 2014, http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/FINAL-Swing-State-Voters-on-Climate-Change.pdf. Voters are much more likely to vote for both Republican and Democratic candidates who want to promote more renewable energy development. Colorado College State of the Rockies poll, Conservation and Voting, 2014. https://www.coloradocollege.edu/dotAsset/952beeaf-16a1-43ce-b53e-54eafc3a9a23.pdf.
The Mining Association and others reliant on the use of commodities like coal to generate power have been concerned that the EPA Clean Power Plan implementation will cause disastrous rate increases and loss of jobs. Coal miners have suffered periodic downturns and job losses because of the volatile nature of the industry. The coal mining industry faces its current reduced demand primarily due to the low price of natural gas, which has become more competitive in the marketplace. We all must be sensitive to the impacts on residents in rural areas around the West as a more global and diverse economy allows us to be less reliant on development of fossil fuels for our jobs and economic prosperity. Fortunately, rural schools, county governments and landowners hosting wind and solar facilities receive large predictable revenue injections from this new type of economic development added to their agricultural resources.
The EPA has encouraged flexible and creative methods for each state to reduce its carbon production, allowing each state to rely on its own strengths. In fact, increased development of renewable wind and solar resources while reducing our reliance on coal electricity can benefit us in Colorado and around the West, offering stable or fixed prices at low rates, providing an important hedge against fossil fuel price volatility. Wind and solar facilities produce electricity with zero fuel costs. This drives down the market price for all electricity that is purchased in the market, not just the wind or solar energy, because the market price for all electricity purchasers is set by the last and most expensive power plant that was chosen to operate. In this way more of the electricity demand throughout the year is met by lower-cost power. In Colorado wind energy can be produced at costs competitive with natural gas, and solar energy prices have dropped at to unprecedented lows. Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 8.0, Sept. 2014; http://www.lazard.com/PDF/Levelized%20Cost%20of%20Energy%20-%20Version%208.0.pdf.
SunShot, Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends, Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections, 2014 ed., September 22, 2014, http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/62558.pdf. These declining costs, compared with the rising capital costs required to maintain outdated and inefficient coal-fired plants, make renewable resources cost-effective in the face of uncertain long-term fuel costs for conventional generation technologies. Increased renewables will save consumers money.
These prices are not hypothetical, they are offered to utilities in Colorado today. Public Service Company of Colorado and rural cooperatives receive record low prices for wind and solar energy now, and the result is overall cost savings because while the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, they can stop burning coal and gas, while maintaining a highly reliable combination of electricity generation resources. American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states — Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Oklahoma, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, which produce more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind — have actually seen their electricity prices decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent. Increasing our portfolio of stable-priced renewables reduces overall power prices by offering a lower-priced alternative when fuel prices peak. Wind energy in Texas is saving consumers $1.2 billion a year by moderating price spikes for electricity, and is saving society $3.3 billion a year by avoiding the costs of pollution and electric power replacement. “Consumer and Societal Benefits of Wind Energy in Texas”, American Wind Energy Association, Nov. 2014, http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/ERCOT%20report%2011-7FINAL.pdf. “Wind Power’s Consumer Benefits”, American Wind Energy Association, Feb., 2014; http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/AWEA%20White%20Paper-Consumer%20Benefits%20final.pdf.
The landmark 2011 study by the Harvard Medical School provides a statistical range of cost for the full life cycle of coal. Their “best estimate” value of the cost of air pollution, mercury poisoning, asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung damage and other effects is 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. When including climate damage from CO2 and black carbon, the best estimate cost of coal rises to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is more than three times the cost of utility-scale wind generation. Even the independent HDR Study, commissioned for $500,000 by the Colorado Springs City Council to study the decommissioning of the Martin Drake power plant, provides a median cost of health and environmental impacts of coal (excluding impacts of climate change) to be over $336,000 per ton of emission.
Continued reliance on coal as our primary baseload resource will require higher rates. Coal cost will continue to increase because shallow, easy to reach coal has been mostly mined out. The U.S. Energy Information Agency forecasts a 1.4% increase above inflation, every year, in coal fuel between now and 2040. Higher rates are also required to fund capital investments to replace outdated technology and to provide for reasonable pollution controls. Colorado Springs Utilities has just announced rate increases because of the coal plant investments required to maintain a reasonable level of emissions, including mercury, ash, nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide, and methane, without even addressing carbon. Millions more will be required within the next 10 years to reduce carbon emissions, while some of our leaders still insist that continuing to pour money into these outdated technologies. As we all know, there comes a point when it is more cost-effective to buy a newer vehicle rather than continuing to maintain, repair and replace parts in an older out-of-date vehicle which has completed its useful life. This is especially true of coal plants which require upgrades and additional equipment to continue to operate, when fuel-free alternatives are available to avoid rising coal and natural gas prices. The Clean Power Plan provides a levelizing influence so that all states can contribute to the overall goal of cleaning up our power system. In the long run, Coloradans will save money by reducing pollution from our electricity generation.