Xcel Energy Files Landmark Clean Air Plan: Plan aims to dramatically reduce metro-area air pollution

Environment Colorado

Xcel Energy today hit a critical deadline under Colorado’s landmark new clean air law, filing a plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proposing the retirement of five metro-area coal plants. Xcel’s filing is an important step in complying with HB10-1365, the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that passed with broad bi-partisan support by the Colorado General Assembly in early April. 

The Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act creates a framework for replacing old, inefficient and dirty coal-fired power generation with cleaner energy solutions that provide for healthier air and clean energy jobs for Colorado, and was widely supported by a diverse group of energy companies, legislators from both parties, public health advocates, local governments and conservation groups.

“With Xcel’s filing today, Colorado is one step closer towards cleaner air and improved public health,” said John Nielsen, energy program director with Western Resource Advocates. “While we need to look closely at the details of the plan, it is clear that Xcel is taking seriously their responsibility to replace Colorado’s aging coal-burning power plants.”

Xcel estimates the proposed slate of retirements and pollution controls will do x,y, and z for metro area air quality. 

According to an Xcel press release, highlights of the plan include:

    • Retirement of 900 megawatts of coal generation at Xcel’s Valmont (186 MW) and Cherokee (717 MW) power plants by the end of 2017 and the end of 2022, respectively;
    • Repowering of Xcel’s Cherokee power plant with efficient, natural gas generation of 883 MW. The company also will switch to natural gas generation at the 111 MW Arapahoe unit four.
    • Retrofitting about 950 MW of coal-fired generation at the Pawnee (505 MW) and Hayden (446 MW) power plants with modern emission control technology.

“There is simply a lot at stake,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel with Environmental Defense. “Millions of Coloradans are currently living with dangerous health impacts associated with air pollution, and we need to move forward with the full slate of proposed retirements, and even more quickly if possible, in order to prevent disease, save lives, reduce hospitalizations and improve our overall health.”

Reducing the air pollution from the facilities Xcel has identified in a unified, comprehensive plan is one of the most cost-effective and important steps that can be taken to protect human health and the environment, cut down global warming pollution, and come into compliance with the federal air quality standards. As part of an overarching effort that includes ensuring that Colorado is making bold new commitments on clean energy and that traditional resource development is done right, this puts Colorado squarely ahead of the pack in solving our energy challenges.  

“Fully implementing the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act will move Colorado towards a cleaner, more prosperous energy future,” notes Elise Jones, executive director of Colorado Environmental Coalition. “And that not only means ensuring that we moving as quickly as possible, but that we are taking full advantage of the role conservation and efficiency can play in Xcel’s plan.” 

Colorado has attracted national attention with this groundbreaking effort, and Xcel’s submission today is a good indication that significant progress can be made.

“A plan to responsibly implement the Clean Air, Clean Jobs bill will make Colorado a national leader in providing a model for addressing the serious public health, haze and climate impacts of dirty coal-fired power plants,” said Roger Singer, Regional Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

“Xcel Energy is certainly on the right track with today’s filing, though retiring some of these aging coal plants faster than proposed will help clean up Colorado’s air sooner rather than later, and more quickly add jobs from a clean energy economy.”

The coal-fired plants that Xcel has proposed to be replaced are approaching the tail end of their projected operational lives. These plants face potentially significant and costly upgrades, and emit large amounts of a number of pollutants that are harmful to human health.