Groundwater: 100 percent renewable electricity needed in Breckenridge (column)
October 20, 2017
This column is written partly in response to two letters to the editor that appeared in the Oct. 3 Summit Daily News edition, under the heading "Sustainability in Breckenridge," and partly in anticipation of the upcoming Breckenridge Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
The first letter writer, Mr. DiCerbo, asked about the energy-efficiency component, which he thought might be missing in the town's clean energy goals. It is not missing. In August, the town council passed a resolution setting a goal for 100 percent renewable electricity for town facilities by 2025 after a briefing from the Breckenridge Renewable Energy Task Force that included a multiyear budget to accomplish that goal. The majority of the expenses in that budget are for energy-efficiency projects, starting with an upgrade of indoor lighting to LED bulbs. Other energy-efficiency projects in the budget include analytic controls for town heating systems, ball field and ice rink lighting upgrades, and more. Projects will be prioritized by the cost savings payoffs from reduction in energy use and other factors.
The other component mentioned by Mr. DiCerbo was electricity storage in the Xcel Energy grid. Xcel Energy is making plans for both increased renewable energy generation and for storage capacity to store some of that energy for later use. The lower costs of renewable energy generation, as compared to fossil-fueled energy generation, should offset some of the costs of utility-scale batteries while they are gradually brought online as their costs drop with increasing production. Xcel Energy has begun a pilot project, approved in March 2016 by the PUC, to test utility-scale batteries in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood.
Xcel Energy also has already begun talking with Breckenridge town officials about how they can meet a proposed town goal for communitywide 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 without an increase in overall rates above increases already planned, typically a few percentage points per year. Xcel Energy management has suggested that Breckenridge negotiate a memorandum of understanding with them to meet this goal, much like the MOU that Park City, Utah, reached with their electric utility after passing their communitywide 100 percent renewable electricity resolution. Breckenridge town officials have presented to Xcel a list of their requirements for this MOU, which includes a requirement for no overall increase in consumer electric rates over those already planned.
The second letter, written by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dudney, asked about these consumer costs. The proposed resolution for communitywide 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 that will be presented to the Breckenridge Town Council in its work session on Oct. 24, specifically states, "On an annual basis, the town council will review progress towards the community-wide 100 percent renewable goals and other relevant information (e.g., utility rates). Should the town council determine that customer utility costs have or are projected to increase at an unacceptable rate because of a transition to renewable energy, the town council may repeal this resolution or modify the goal set in Section 1 (e.g., 100 percent renewable energy community-wide by 2035)."
So, yes, the proposed resolution includes a consumer cost-containment provision. I suggest that everyone who is interested in Breckenridge's renewable energy future and how the town can help mitigate the dangerous effects that human-caused climate change is having and will continue to have on our town, should read the documents from the Breckenridge Renewable Energy Task Force that are included in the town council agenda packet. The documents include a two-page introductory memo, the draft resolution and a longer paper from the task force on why the resolution should be passed. The task force has worked hard to provide information to address all the concerns and questions we have heard and to structure a sound and workable resolution.
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Beth Groundwater lives in Breckenridge.
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