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Longmont City Council Hears Plan for Moving to ‘zero Net Carbon’ Electricity Generation

December 20, 2017

Platte River Power Authority’s ‘zero net carbon’ study

A consultant’s study of how the Platte River Power Authority could achieve a “zero net carbon” production of electricity for Longmont, Loveland, Estes Park and Fort Collins municipal electric utility customers by 2030 can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y94tatou

Longmont’s City Council took no formal or informal position Tuesday night on a study’s suggestions for how the Platte River Power Authority could provide a “zero net carbon” energy supply by the year 2030.

After nearly an hour-long presentation by the Power Authority and Pace Global, its consultant for the study, few of the council members made comments during the meeting.

Councilwoman Marcia Martin suggested new wind turbine technology might reduce the future costs the study has projected for that source.

Martin also noted that Gary Vicinus, Pace Global’s managing director, had characterized some of the study’s cost and feasibility projections about renewable energy sources as guesses, and Martin questioned whether they might be “very conservative guesses.”

Vicinus said his consulting firm tried to be “in the middle” with some of its projections, and not too conservative.

Mayor Brian Bagley, who as mayor is a member of the PRPA’s board of directors, noted his commitment earlier this month to working with PRPA and Longmont Power and Communications toward achieving a goal of “a 100 percent clean, renewable electricity supply by the year 2030.”

Bagley said his votes on the Power Authority board will be for the agency — which also provides electricity to Loveland, Estes Park and Fort Collins — to continue to move in that direction.

PRPA General Manager Jason Frisbie told the Longmont council that the study, and the path to zero net carbon it suggests, “is just the beginning of a lot of work we’ve got to do” in moving to providing more of its energy from renewable sources.”

Frisbie said PRPA looks forward to moving to “a sustainable energy future.”

The consultant’s study suggested that by 2030, 35 percent of electricity the Power Authority provides to its member municipalities could be from solar sources, 23 percent from wind, 5 percent from hydro and 37 percent from natural gas.

Later, during the public-comments portion of the City Council meeting, Karen Dike, of Sustainable Resilient Longmont, applauded parts of the PRPA scenario, including the plan to add more wind-generated energy to the Power Authority’s portfolio.

However, she disagreed with including natural gas-produced energy along with such renewable-energy sources as solar-, wind- and hydroelectric-generated power.

Zero net carbon “is very different from 100 percent renewable energy,” Dike said. “We must get to 100 percent renewable energy.”

She said that by the time the Power Authority retires its coal-fired Rawhide plant, battery storage for energy generated from renewable sources should be in place, rather than building any natural gas-powered generation facility.

Platte River Power Authority’s proposed zero net carbon goal wouldn’t satisfy a proposed state law that Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, announced Monday that he’ll be introducing after the Legislature convenes its 2018 session in January.

What Jones is calling “the Cheaper Clean Power Act” would require all utilities — municipal- and investor-owned utilities, as well as rural electric associations — to transition completely to renewable energy sources by 2035.

Jones argued in a statement that Coloradans should not “continue to hitch our wagon to expensive, unpredictable fossil fuel sources that pollute our air, cause deadly explosions and spills, and drive climate change.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilwoman Martin said “zero carbon,” with no reliance on fossil fuels, including natural gas, “is where we need to go,” rather than zero net carbon.

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc