Moffat Collection System Project update: Environmental groups file lawsuit

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

A suit filed against three U.S. government agencies seeks to stop the expansion of Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir in Boulder County…

Gross Reservoir provides water to 1.4 million Front Range customers. The expansion would divert more water from Colorado River headwater tributaries during wet years. In a nutshell, the project seeks to raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet; storage capacity would increase by 77,000 acre feet.

The environmental groups who sued say the U.S. government permitting process inadequately evaluated the impact of the large project on streamflows. There are also concerns about how construction would affect wildlife.

“We went above and beyond mitigation of environmental impacts under the permits,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said. “We sat down with Grand County, Eagle County… and a host of agencies across Western Colorado, and developed a series of environmental enhancements to the streams of Western Colorado.”

Trout Unlimited is one such group that has supported the Gross Reservoir expansion, citing successful stream augmentation programs along the Fraser River…

Revving up the legal gears could pose a setback for Denver Water, which has spent years securing the necessary permits. Now that it has those in place, environmental groups are seeking to stop construction.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Top 10 Takeaways From Recent Clean Energy Announcements — Wild Earth Guardians @ClimateWest

From Wild Earth Guardians (Jeremy Nichols):

The American West Will Never be the Same

As the owners of the largest coal-burning power plant in the West map out the details of closing in the next two years, the Navajo Nation has taken its next step in its energy development by starting operations at a new 27-megawatt solar farm not far from the source of the coal that fuels Navajo Generating Station. The Kayenta solar project, owned by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and operated by First solar, is the first large-scale solar energy facility on the reservation. The electricity is sold to the Salt River Project for distribution. The project’s 120,000 photovoltaic panels sit on 200 acres and are mounted on single-axis trackers that follow the movement of the sun. It provides enough electricity to power approximately 7,700 households. The tribe entered a lease agreement with NTUA in 2015 for the location, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in April 2016, followed by six months of construction that started last September. The $60 million facility was built using a construction loan from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.

The month of December 2018 is probably going to go down in history as the month when all things climate and energy truly and irreversibly changed for the better in the American West.

From bold carbon reduction commitments by big utilities to the fact that the economics of renewables are unbelievably great (and seem to be getting better by the day), this month has been a watershed moment.

Given this, we thought it’d be useful to dive in more deeply and really explore what all these announcements mean. Below, our top ten takeaways from these latest developments:

10. Xcel Energy Will be Shutting Down all its Remaining Coal-fired Power Plants in Colorado

The big news in early December was Xcel Energy’s announcement of its goals to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030 and to become completely carbon-free in its generation of electricity by 2050.

Bold. There’s no other way to put it. Xcel Energy is not only the first utility in the nation to commit to becoming carbon-free, but did so even as the company currently generates power from many coal-fired power plants.

This was not an announcement from some flaming progressive utility. This was an announcement from a utility that still generates huge amounts of power from carbon-intensive fossil fuels. In fact, Xcel still generates more than 50% of its power from coal in Colorado.

And in the wake of this bold commitment, there’s really no escaping the real implications. If Xcel has any chance of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2030 and going carbon-free by 2050, the company is going to have to shutter all of its remaining coal-fired power plants in Colorado.

That includes the Hayden power plant outside of Steamboat Springs, the Pawnee power plant northeast of Denver, and the entirety of the Comanche 3 plant in Pueblo.

And in all likelihood, to meet their 2030 goal of reducing carbon emissions 80%, it means these plants are going away by 2030.

It may seem drastic, but there’s really no other viable option. As Xcel’s CEO commented, this is about doing something for the climate. And as the economics of coal worsen, Xcel will surely soon be followed by other utilities looking to shed the mounting liabilities of fossil fuels.

9. Platte River Power Authority Will be Shutting Down its Coal-fired Power Plant north of Fort Collins, as well as Divesting its Share of Craig

Xcel’s announcement was big, but Platte River Power Authority’s was bigger.

The Colorado power agency, which serves Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park, announced its goal of eliminating 100% of its carbon emissions by 2030.

While that’s an astounding goal that almost puts Xcel’s commitments to shame, what’s more significant about Platte River Power Authority’s announcement is that will mean a wholesale transformation in the utility’s generating portfolio.

Currently, nearly 90% of Platte River Power Authority’s electricity is generated by coal or natural gas. And of its fossil fuel-generating portfolio, more than half is provided by the Rawhide power plant north of Fort Collins and a portion of the Craig power plant in northwest Colorado.

Transmission towers near the Rawhide power plant near Fort Collins, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

The utility’s announcement all but guarantees the Rawhide plant will be shut down and that it will divest of its ownership in the Craig plant, all by 2030.

Coupled with Xcel’s plans, it means that Colorado will be virtually coal-free by 2030.

8. Pacificorp Has no Economic Choice but to Retire a lot of Coal

Pacificorp, a Portland, Oregon-based utility, owns all or portions of 10 coal-fired power plants in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming (they used to own 11, but shut down an aging plant in Utah in 2015).

To boot, they own coal mines in both Utah and Wyoming.

Yet even this captain of coal in the American West is coming to terms with the reality that its massive fossil fuel enterprise makes no economic sense.

Earlier in the month, the company released a report showing that 60% of its coal-fired generating units are more expensive to operate than developing new alternative sources of power, namely renewable energy.

However, that was just the headline. A closer look at Pacificorp’s report actually reveals that, taken together, all of the company’s coal-fired units are not remotely cost-effective.

Under a base scenario, while some of the company’s coal-fired units are cheaper to operate than alternatives, the savings from retiring uneconomic units would actually offset the costs of retiring the utility’s entire fleet of coal.

Pacificorp has made no decisions or announcements yet. However, in the wake of Xcel Energy’s carbon-free commitment, it seems inevitable the utility will make a similarly bold proclamation in 2019.

Ultimately, we’re likely to see Pacificorp make a big move away from coal in the very near future. Because of the company’s massive coal footprint in the American West, this move promises a massive move to renewable energy in the western U.S.

7. People Served by Colorado Springs Utilities Should be Worried

Colorado Springs Utilities serves the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado and surrounding communities. And while the municipal utility seems innocuous, they generate more than 40% of their power from coal from two coal-fired power plants, including one—Martin Drake power—right in the middle of the City’s downtown.

For years now, residents and ratepayers have sounded the alarm over the Martin Drake power plant, which sours the skies with toxic emissions.

Equally alarming is the fact that Martin Drake is one of the least efficient and most expensive municipally owned power plants to operate in the United States.

In spite of this, the utility seems to have no plans for addressing the rising costs of power except a vague and unenforceable commitment to retire Martin Drake by 2035. What’s more, the utility seems to have no plans to retire its other coal-fired power plant, the Ray Nixon plant located south of Colorado Springs.

So, while other utilities in Colorado are making big moves away from coal, Colorado Springs Utilities is staying firmly committed, at least for the time being, to costly coal.

It’s no wonder why people in Colorado Springs are increasingly incensed over their utility’s inaction.

The unrest will only grow as Colorado Springs Utilities delays providing its customers with cleaner and more affordable power.

6. This is the Beginning of the End for Tri-State Generation and Transmission

Tri-State Generation and Transmission is a utility company that provides wholesale power to 43 member rural electric cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

And while Tri-State has a noble goal of energizing rural communities within its service area, the company is facing growing resistance over rising costs.

The reason for rising costs: the company’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power, as well as Tri-State’s investments in coal mines.

Because of this, the utility is facing the prospect of a mass exodus of its customer base.

In 2016, one of its former members, the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in northern New Mexico, bought out its contract with Tri-State. This month, another member, the Delta Montrose Electric Association in western Colorado, filed a complaint with state utility regulators to do the same.

Not only that, but other members, including the United Power Cooperative, La Plata Electric Cooperative, and the Poudre Valley Electric Cooperative, all of which are major revenue generators for Tri-State, are also exploring alternatives to the utility company.

Coupled with the fact that Tri-State’s utility partners, including co-owners of the Craig coal-fired power plant in northwestern Colorado, are moving away from coal, the company is facing a bleak future.

As its members and partners bail, Tri-State’s business model seems doomed to collapse.

That’s not all bad news. As Tri-State declines, its members stand to enjoy more energy freedom and to reap the economic rewards of local renewable energy development.

5. Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service Likely to be Next to Announce Big Moves from Coal

Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service are both large utilities primarily serving Arizona. And both utilities know that the economics of coal simply aren’t worth it.

As the primary owner of the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, the largest coal-fired power plant in the American West, Salt River Project decided to shutter the facility by the end of 2019.

Arizona Public Service, is also getting out of the Navajo Generating Station after retiring portions of the nearby Four Corners power plant in northwest New Mexico.

Navajo Generating Station. Photo credit: Wolfgang Moroder.

So far, neither Salt River Project nor Arizona Public Service has made any further announcements to move away from coal. However, given that both of the utilities are clearly seeing the reality of coal costs, we should see some additional major shifts away from coal in the west.

Arizona Public Service also owns a portion of the Cholla coal-fired power plant in Arizona. The other owner of Cholla is Pacificorp. And with Pacificorp already seemingly making a move away from coal, it’s hard to believe Arizona Public Service won’t follow.

Salt River Project owns portions of the Hayden and Craig power plants in western Colorado, as well as portions of the Four Corners power plant in New Mexico and Springerville power plant in Arizona. They also fully own the Coronado power plant in Arizona.

Every one of these power plants has been identified as economically costly and risky by financial analysts.

Given all this, it’s hard to believe that Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project will continue to maintain their investments in coal.

4. New Utilities Emerging, Giving Old a Run For Their Money

This is beyond huge.

With the decline in renewable prices, new utilities are actually emerging in the American West.

At the forefront is Guzman Energy, whose stated goal is to “transition an outdated energy economy into the renewable age.”

And just last week, Guzman released a request for proposals to build 250 megawatts of renewable energy in the American West, including 200 megawatts of wind and 50 megawatts of solar.

3. This isn’t Just a Climate Opportunity, it’s a Huge Economic Development Opportunity

More renewable energy means more economic development, particularly in rural communities.

Already in Colorado, the state’s move away from coal to more renewable energy promises more jobs, more local revenue, and overall a huge net economic benefit.

It’s really a no-brainer when you think about it.

For one, developing renewable energy means developing more distributed generating sources, including rooftop solar, wind, and batteries, which are ideally situated in the communities they serve.

For another, as more renewable energy takes hold, energy prices stand to stabilize, if not decline, saving communities in the long run.

Colorado rural electric cooperative Delta Montrose Electric Association’s effort to break free from Tri-State is in fact being driven by the prospect of greater economic prosperity. As the co-op’s CEO stated:

“The decision to separate from Tri-State allows for significant economic benefit for our members – including stabilized rates, development of diverse and low-cost local energy, and the creation of new local jobs.” – Jasen Bronec, chief executive officer, Delta Montrose Electric Association

As utilities throughout the American West make the transition to clean energy, it will inevitably open the door for more economic opportunity.

Rural communities in particular stand to reap big rewards as more generation is built locally, sustaining affordable energy, creating jobs, and creating new revenue.

2. No New Gas is on the Horizon

Don’t think natural gas is getting a pass in all this.

The reality is, in the face of utilities’ carbon-free announcements and acknowledgment of economic truths, there does not seem to be a future for this fossil fuel.

It’s telling that although Xcel Energy announced in 2017 plans to construct new natural gas-fired generating facilities in Colorado, the company ultimately abandoned that plan and instead forecasts a decline in natural gas burning.

It’s no wonder. While the economic of coal are the worst, the economics of natural gas aren’t far behind. Xcel’s own data showed that gas simply couldn’t compete with renewables.

Although natural gas is often thought of as a “bridge” from coal to renewables, it seems the whole notion of a bridge is absurd at this point.

And with the economics being what they are, it seems that utilities are going to start shutting down existing gas plants, effectively demolishing the bridge.

That’s great news for the climate. Despite the assertion that natural gas is cleaner than coal, it actually has an outsized carbon footprint largely because of methane releases associated with fracking.

Methane has 86 times more heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide, making it a potent climate pollutant.

1. There’s a Good Chance the American West Will be Coal-free by 2030

Given that all the American West’s most significant coal burning utilities are making or will very likely make big near-term moves away from coal, there’s no doubt that we are likely to see a coal-free American West within a decade.

Sure, not every utility has stepped up to announce bold climate action or a move toward more renewable energy. However, the writing on the wall seems very clear that if utilities don’t go down this path, it could mean their demise.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission is already staring at a bleak future due to its unwillingness to move beyond coal.

Other coal burning utilities in the western U.S., including Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, Basin Electric, Idaho Power, Black Hills Corporation, and others are undoubtedly be staring at the same future. Their failure to move beyond coal could very well be their undoing.

That means whether they like it or not, utilities face the prospect of their coal going away and soon.

And that’s why the American West is very likely to be 100% coal-free as early as 2030.

Epilogue: What About Natural Gas Systems?

Amidst the big energy announcements, there’s a conspicuous lack of focus on utilities’ natural gas services. Xcel, Pacificorp, and others aren’t just electricity providers, they also provide gas to homes, businesses, and industry for heating, cooking, and other uses.

While natural gas systems are more distributed and less high profile than huge, filthy coal-fired smokestacks, they’re equally destructive and disconcerting from a climate standpoint.

In fact, from the point of fracking to the point at which natural gas is consumed, massive amounts of carbon emissions are released from our natural gas systems.

While nationwide, methane leaks and combustion at natural gas well and processing plants release more than 200 million metric tons of carbon annually in the U.S., the consumption of natural gas at homes, businesses, and factories releases nearly 800 million metric tons.

In total, carbon pollution associated with natural gas production and consumption in non-power plant sources accounts for more than 15% of all U.S. climate emissions.

Cleaner electricity generation is critical to saving our climate. However, utilities can’t ignore their overall carbon footprints. That means Xcel, Pacificorp, and others need to start paying attention to natural gas.

And who better than to take action to help our nation move away from natural gas than our electric utilities?

They, more than anyone else, have the means to develop the renewable energy to generate the power needed to run electric furnaces, stoves, ovens, hot water heaters, and other appliances.

Truly, utilities like Xcel and others can transition their customers from gas to electricity and ultimately, be as lucrative as ever.

What a month it’s been. Here’s hoping for more progress for the climate, for 100% fossil fuel-free, and for real economic prosperity in the American West. Stay tuned for more!

Rural Jobs: A Big Reason Midwest Should Love Clean Energy — Inside #Climate News

From Inside Climate News (Dan Gearino):

From wind power maintenance to energy efficiency upgrades, clean energy job opportunities outnumber fossil fuel work in much of the rural Midwest.

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council shows the extent to which clean energy is contributing jobs to the rural economies of 12 Midwestern states. It also reflects what the rural Midwest stands to lose from Trump administration actions that harm clean energy, such as its recent call to eliminate subsidies for renewable energy, its tariffs on solar energy equipment, and its plan to weaken the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The authors say the numbers underscore the need in the Midwest for government policies that are supportive of clean energy instead.

In 2017, the latest data in the report, clean energy employed about 158,000 people in the rural Midwest, according to NRDC. While a larger number of clean energy jobs overall were in urban areas, the rural clean energy jobs stand out for making up a bigger percentage of the overall rural economy…

Fossil fuel industries have faded as major employers in most of the rural Midwest, despite a history in some states closely tied to coal, oil and natural gas production, the report shows. Ten of the 12 states have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs. The exceptions are North Dakota, which has the Bakken oil field, and Kansas, where the numbers are close…

In 2017, the Midwest added 31 gigawatts of wind and solar power plants, 24 gigawatts of which are located in rural areas, according to government data cited by NRDC. For some perspective, the country’s largest coal-fired power plants are 2 or 3 gigawatts each. A growing number of cities, including Cleveland and Cincinnati, have committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, and much of that power will likely be produced in rural areas.

#GreenhouseGas Emissions Accelerate Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018 — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

Rush hour on Interstate 25 near Alameda. Screen shot The Denver Post March 9, 2017.

From The New York Times (Kendra Pierre-Louis):

Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles.

“We’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford and an author of one of two studies published Wednesday. “That’s really surprising.”

Worldwide, carbon emissions are expected to increase by 2.7 percent in 2018, according to the new research, which was published by the Global Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from more than 50 academic and research institutions and one of the few organizations to comprehensively examine global emissions numbers. Emissions rose 1.6 percent last year, the researchers said, ending a three-year plateau.

Worldwide, carbon emissions are expected to increase by 2.7 percent in 2018, according to the new research, which was published by the Global Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from more than 50 academic and research institutions and one of the few organizations to comprehensively examine global emissions numbers. Emissions rose 1.6 percent last year, the researchers said, ending a three-year plateau.

#COleg: KC Becker of Boulder has made her choices for who will be leaders of 11 House committees in the 2019 and 2020 sessions

Colorado Capitol building

From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

Becker…reorganized a few committees, eliminating the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee in favor of a “Rural Affairs Committee.”

[…]

In a Sunday statement, Becker said the Rural Affairs Committee “will oversee issues of particular importance to rural Colorado such as agriculture, water, rural broadband and rural economic development.”

[…]

And there’s one new committee: Energy and Environment…

Rural Affairs (formerly Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources) will be chaired by Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon and vice-chairwoman Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara.

Energy and Environment will be chaired by Rep. Dominique Jackson of Aurora; vice-chairwoman will be Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder…

The Energy and Environment committee, and the Finance committee, will be led by African Americans; five of the 11 committees are led by women.

“Yet Another Benefit of Renewable Energy: It Uses Practically No Water Compared to Fossil Fuels” — @DeSmogBlog

Photo credit: CleanTechnica.com

From DeSmogBlog.com (Justin Mikulka):

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently highlighted a little-discussed benefit of using renewables like wind and solar to produce electricity: Unlike most power sources, they require “almost no water.”

[…]

According to the latest U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data from 2015, 41 percent of the water used in America is for power generation. The next highest use is irrigation for agriculture, accounting for 37 percent of U.S. water use (and close to two-thirds of that is consumptive).

California fires put focus on risk of electrical lines — The Mountain Town News

Transmission towers near the Rawhide power plant near Fort Collins, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Risks of above-ground power lines & the cost of going underground

California’s Camp and Woolsey fires put the electrical infrastructure upon which all mountain communities depend into vivid focus. A central question has been what value should be assigned to the benefits of putting transmission and other electrical lines underground.

Investigators had still not determined by Monday what caused the two fires. However, The Guardian reported on Saturday that the California Public Utilities Commission said it received reports from two utilities showing equipment issues occurred in areas close to where the fires ignited in the moments before flames began to spread.

On Monday, the Sacramento Bee reported that Pacific Gas & Electric had informed the PUC of a high-voltage outage in an area just a few minutes prior to the first reports of flames that quickly became the Camp Fire. The Guardian on Saturday said a utility had also reported problems about the time the fire near Los Angeles erupted and in the same vicinity.

A spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network, a California advocacy group, pointed to a record of problems. “We don’t know yet if PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) is responsible for the Camp Fire,” Mindy Spatt told The Guardian. “But we know there is a pattern there, and it is a pattern that is costing consumers potentially billions of dollars (in liability payouts) and costing lives as well.”

Several mountain towns in the Rockies have been talking about alternative delivery of electricity to improve resilience. Cost of putting lines underground has been part of the discussion.

The proposed line in the Vail area would be of the size in the third from the left.

In the Vail area, Holy Cross Energy proposes a new 115-kilovolt transmission line between a substation at Gilman, a now-abandoned mining town, and Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek. The new transmission line would make the communities along Interstate 70 in what is commonly called the Vail Valley less vulnerable to risk of wildfire, equipment failure, or even sabotage.

Holy Cross has been working on creating that redundancy for two years, but the risk of wildfire was highlighted in July when a small fire temporarily threatened the main power lines along I-70. In response, the local water district ordered a ban on all outdoor watering. Without electricity, it has enough water to last for only a couple of days.

Just days before, a far bigger fire had threatened to put Aspen and Snowmass in the dark for the July Fourth weekend. The Lake Christine Fire that was started on July 3 by target shooters at a range near Basalt burned three of four power lines used by Holy Cross Energy to Aspen. The fire was about 20 miles down valley from Aspen. Had the fourth and final line gone down, Aspen would have been without power for several days. Repair crews cannot go into a fire area until it has been fully contained.

A backup transmission line to Telluride was put underground for 10 miles as it crossed Wilson Mesa, an area of unusually high-value and calendar-worthy real estate. Photo/Realtor.com

The two fires illustrate just how vulnerable mountain resort towns can be, due to their often tortured if wondrously scenic geography. Telluride illustrates the vulnerabilities even better.

Twice in this century Telluride has lost power during ski season when transmission lines were damaged. The primary transmission line comes from the south, over Ophir Pass. In 2004 a snow slide took out one of those transmission lines. Telluride and Mountain Village, including the ski area, had three days of reduced power and rolling blackouts during the height of ski season.

In response, a new 51-mile backup power line was completed in 2013. The $56 million line comes from the west, in the Nucla area. The negotiations were protracted, involved lengthy hearings before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and a court case. The primary issue was the cost of undergrounding a 10-mile segment through calendar-worthy Wilson and Specie mesas. Some of the most expensive real estate in the Telluride area is located there.

The $19 million cost of undergrounding was paid in part by homeowners of the high-priced homes on the mesas but also the two towns, San Miguel County, and both the wholesale provider, Tri-State Generation & Transmission, and the distribution co-operative, San Miguel Power. Customers of the co-op are being charged via a surcharge over a 30-year period.

Art Goodtimes, then a San Miguel County commissioner, believes that undergrounding should be considered in the context of avoided cost. Underground lines pose less risk of causing wildfires. “If you’re really serious about (mitigating) wildfire risk, undergrounding makes sense if you consider the avoided costs, the dollars and cents, of containing wildfires,” he says.

Even so, Telluride, however, still did not have full redundancy. On Presidents’ Day Weekend in 2017 a refrigerator-sized boulder tumbled 800 feet and struck a power line pole. A comedy festival at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride had to be finished in candlelight and a local grocery unloaded frozen goods at a discount.

That last-mile redundancy has since been addressed by the local San Miguel Power Association.

Holy Cross Energy has said it would put 1.7 miles of transmission line underground in Minturn, which is much but not all of the town. Photo credit: Allen Best

Underground lines always cost more. A May story in The Atlantic cited a 2012 study by the Edison Electric Institute that found underground lines had fewer problems during storms and were better for public safety all around. But the cost, said the article, starts at $1 million a mile. In mountainous areas, it’s much higher yet. Even the lower figure is 5 to 10 times what it costs to hang a line overhead.

This added cost can make undergrounding prohibitively expensive. The magazine cited a plan in North Carolina to put lines underground that was dropped. It would have caused electrical rates to rise 125 percent.

In Minturn, Holy Cross has indicated willingness to bury 1.7 miles of the 8.65-mile line. That would put it out of sight in most of Minturn, but not all. Minturn wants more undergrounding.

“Certainly Minturn wants to support redundancy in the system. We get it. We just love the idea of undergrounding for a variety of reasons,” says Michelle Metteer, the town manager.

There’s also the question of equity. Holy Cross has buried distribution lines in Snowmass Village, as was pointed out by Minturn resident Lynn Feiger in an op/ed published in the Vail Daily during September. Why, she seemed to ask, would it treat the Minturn area any differently?

As for Aspen, Holy Cross has been talking about distributed generation coupled with battery storage as one option for making the community’s electricity supply less vulnerable to wildland fires.

In Idaho, a similar discussion is under way. There, the path for a second transmission line to the Ketchum-Sun Valley area has been identified but not the details. Undergrounding is among the options, but at an additional cost that Idaho Power estimates at $34.5 million. The Idaho Mountain Express reports several financing options, none of them inviting or easy.