Utilities in Colorado and Hawaii Pursue Clean Energy
The largest utilities in Colorado and Hawaii are now seriously pursuing clean energy. In late September, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a long-term energy resource plan for Xcel Energy that calls for demand-side management programs to reduce electricity use by 1,744 gigawatt-hours by 2015, while cutting peak electricity demand by 421 megawatts (MW), equivalent to two medium-size power plants. The plan also calls for at least 200 MW of solar power with energy storage, such as a concentrating solar power plant, and up to 850 MW of intermittent renewable power. And to help reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, Xcel Energy will close two of its older, coal-fired power plants—one in Denver and another in Grand Junction. See the Colorado PUC press release and full decision (PDF 577 KB). Download Adobe Reader.
In Hawaii, the state reached an agreement with Hawaiian Electric Company to pursue several actions that will increase the state's use of renewable energy. The agreement includes a commitment to integrate as much as 1,100 MW of renewable energy into the power grid, with 700 MW of renewable energy to be implemented within the next five years. In addition, an undersea cable will connect Maui, Molokai, and Lanai to allow an additional 400 MW of wind power capacity to be built in Maui, with the wind power transmitted to Oahu. The utility will also establish a "feed-in tariff" that would pay a standard rate for power fed into the grid from renewable energy systems, and the utility will eliminate caps on the use of "net metering," which credits customers for power fed back into the electrical grid. All of those actions will help Hawaiian Electric Company to draw on renewable resources for 40% of its electricity by 2030, double the percentage required by the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Hawaiian Electric Company will also reduce its carbon emissions through a prohibition on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and a commitment to retire older fossil-fueled power plants as new renewable energy sources become available. The utility will also shift some fossil-fueled power plants to burn biomass or biofuels. To encourage energy savings, the utility will pursue the deployment of "smart" meters that allow customers to save money by shifting their electricity use to off-peak times, and the utility's earnings will no longer be proportional to its electricity sales. The utility will also expand its program to finance solar water heating systems for its customers, with the investment repaid through a portion of the energy savings. In addition, the state and the utility will develop incentives to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles in the state. The agreement is part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, in which the state and DOE agreed to move Hawaii toward having 70% of its energy come from clean energy sources by 2030. See the press release from Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle.