IREA questions Xcel’s preferred energy plan

IREA recently voiced to the state’s utility regulatory authority our preference for one of several energy portfolios proposed by our wholesale power provider.

IREA’s July 23 filing with Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) argues that the preferred portfolio presented by Public Service Company of Colorado – more commonly known as Xcel Energy – is deeply flawed and ultimately could cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Xcel believes its Preferred Colorado Energy Plan Portfolio (CEPP) would eventually save Colorado ratepayers, including IREA customers, nearly $215 million while also introducing 1,100 megawatts of wind generation, 700 megawatts of solar generation, and 275 megawatts of battery storage to its system.

Flaws and biases in Xcel’s modeling of the Preferred CEPP, however, make the plan’s cost savings projections illusory and unreliable. At issue is the retirement of two of Xcel’s coal-fired generation stations in Pueblo. Though Comanche Units 1 and 2 currently are scheduled for retirement in 2033 and 2035, respectively, the Preferred CEPP calls for both to be retired a decade early in favor of renewable generation sources.

Any potential savings modeled in the Preferred CEPP would not be realized until after the as-scheduled retirement of the Comanche units – no earlier than 2046 – if at all. Uncertainty in such far-off projections, as well as tax issues and other contingencies, place much of the risk on ratepayers.

Xcel’s energy portfolio is of particular importance to IREA and our customers because we jointly own, with Xcel and Holy Cross Energy, Comanche’s third generation unit and we have a power purchase agreement with Xcel that provides much of our purchased electricity from Xcel. Therefore, the risks presented by the Preferred CEPP affect IREA’s customers.

In our PUC filing, we urged the commission to instead adopt Xcel’s Preferred Energy Resource Plan (ERP). This alternate portfolio proposes the addition of 1,100 combined megawatts of solar and wind generation, as well as 50 megawatts of battery storage, but not the early retirement of either Comanche Unit 1 or 2. Modeling of the Preferred ERP shows that it bests the Preferred CEPP by more than $200 million in potential savings.

Our PUC filing is part of IREA’s commitment to representing the interests of our customers and providing reliable service at low rates. We will apprise you of any updates regarding energy portfolios via future Watts & Volts, as well as and our social media channels, @IREAColorado on Twitter and IntermountainREA on Facebook.