Emissions goal costly, utility says

Meeting Gov. Bill Ritter’s goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions could cost Coloradans $1 billion a year for power by the target date of 2020, Holy Cross Energy says.

The electric utility, based in Glenwood Springs, says the challenge of meeting Ritter’s goal is greatly exacerbated by an anticipated 40 to 50 percent rise in electricity consumption in the state between 2005 and 2020.

Holy Cross has issued a “white paper” that says trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with such an increase in demand is akin to “running down an up escalator.”

Ritter’s climate action plan seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. He asked utilities to develop plans for meeting that goal, and Holy Cross decided to also look at what the emission targets would mean for Colorado electric utilities at large.

Holy Cross based the estimated statewide cost of meeting the 2020 goal on an assumption of a 2 percent annual increase in electricity demand due to continuing growth in population, economic activity, and home use of electricity for an increasing array of computers, larger televisions and other appliances.

The utility says meeting the 2020 reduction target would require significant changes in its fuel mix, which could raise a typical household’s electricity rates $17 to $36 per month, depending on how the change is accomplished.

Changing utilities’ fuel mixes would require costly conversions from coal-fired power plants to ones using cleaner-burning but more expensive natural gas, and use of more carbon-free sources such as wind, hydropower and solar, Holy Cross says.

At today’s population growth rates, meeting Ritter’s 2050 goal would require that the state’s electricity supplies be “darn near carbon-free,” said Del Worley, chief executive officer of Holy Cross.

Worley said the report’s intent is not to judge Ritter’s goals, but only to state facts and prompt discussion about the goals.

The report notes it doesn’t calculate the costs of not acting to reduce emissions, and instead dealing with the possible impacts of a warming climate.

Matt Futch, with the Governor’s Energy Office, said several utilities have investigated the options for meeting “the bold targets” in Ritter’s plan.

“The GEO looks forward to putting together an objective and forward-looking report on how the state’s utilities are addressing the complex issue of climate change,” he said.


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