Now that the Utilities Board decided to close the Martin Drake Power Plant, what’s next?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Officials in Colorado Springs voted Nov. 18 to close the Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2035.

Two plans were discussed and in a 6 to 3 vote, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board made the decision to completely close Drake in 20 years.

“We’re going to move forward with the three turbines that currently burn coal to move forward probably in the near term to use more natural gas but in the long term to have a whole new operation power plant that will not be Drake,” said Utilities Board Vice Chair Tom Strand, who voted in favor of the decision.

But not everyone feels the same.

“My concern remains the replacement of power.” Chair of the Utilities Board, Andy Pico said, “That’s the lowest cost option is to use a coal powered energy from Drake and in order to shut it down we’re going to have to replacing power.”

There’s talk of replacing it with renewable energy.

“Currently we have a plan that by 2020 we’ll be using 20 percent of all of our energy will be renewables,” Strand said. “That’s both solar and wind power and some hydro, a small amount of water-hydro power.”

“I was rather hoping we would maintain the Drake Power Plant, the units in it until we had a better option come forward,” Pico said. “I mean the plant isn’t going to last forever but I didn’t want to put a hard certain date on it because that will drive a lot of decisions that are not necessarily the most economical ones.”

Common concerns for the coal-fired plant is its environmental and health risks which were major factors going into the decision.

“The issues in the portfolios were the social costs and the social costs include the amount of pollution, the amount of ozone layer kind of situation, the sulfur situation and so I think that went into the decision to close Drake which was built in the late 1950’s and come up with a new concept that’s going to be cleaner and better for our community,” Strand said.

Pico said that’s already being taken care of with the newly installed scrubbers.

“I mean that’s what we’re doing. We’re cleaning up the emissions so it is clean and you look outside and you don’t see that haze anymore.” Pico said, “It’s gone so that’s what the emissions is, we put the emissions on and even with those emissions controls, the coal is still the cheapest power.”

While 20 years is a long time from now, how will rates change during that period?

“I think as we get used to more renewables we want to make sure the rates don’t go up any more than two percent as we look for a new energy, a cleaner supply of energy for our community,” Stand said.

“It was a long time coming. It was an issue when I first ran,” Pico said. “We’ve done a lot of study on it. I’m personally a little disappointed by how we came out. Putting a date certain on there has some disadvantages.”

Colorado Springs Utilities said the decision to go from closing in 2029 to 2035 allows cost impacts to spread out over a full 20 years.



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