Excitement builds about changes accelerating in energy systems — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

In an old school gymnasium in Paonia that one speaker commented looked like it had been constructed during the Great Depression, 120 people gathered last week to sort out the future of energy in the 21st century.

The town in west-central Colorado is surrounded by peach and apple orchards, peaks of the West Elk Mountains looming in the background. It’s not really a tourist town, as witnessed by the fact that there’s just one motel.

Paonia. Photo credit: Allen Best

Paonia used to be a coal town. The West Elk Mine still operates just a few miles away, but the miners have been laid off in droves as giant central-station coal-fired coal plants get shut down in favor of cheaper natural gas but also renewables in more dispersed locations. In 2012, nearly 1,000 people had been employed in the local mines. By 2017, the employment had fallen to just 220.

Many key figures in Paonia and other local communities want to be at the front of that shift, not at the dirty backend. Among them is John Gavan, who semi-retired to the Paonia area after a career in technology. A member of the board of directors for the local electrical provider, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, Gavan organized the conference, which is called Engage.

“We have an energy legacy, because of coal. But we now we are transitioning to a new distributed and renewable model,” he said in an interview afterwards. “We want to be sure we are economically engaged.”

Gavan believes that Delta-Montrose is one of the most aggressive electrical co-operatives in the country. A decade ago it began developing electricity using the fast-flowing waters of an agricultural canal.

Elsewhere in Colorado, a utility drew national attention last year when it announced it was planning to close two coal plants and replace the lost generation with primarily wind and solar with some battery storage. Xcel Energy said it could do this and save money for ratepayers and investors. The proposal was approved earlier this month by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

One coal mine remains open in the North Fork Valley. Photo/Allen Best

Colorado is particularly blessed with a diversity of renewable resources, but the same declining prices have roiled the electrical sector across North America.

Tom Plant, the keynote speaker at Engage, painted a picture of changes being driven from the grassroots. “Congress last year introduced how many energy bills?” he asked rhetorically. None, he answered. But legislators around the country introduced 3,433 bills.

Plant, who is with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Center for the New Energy Economy, described the “mainstreaming of renewables.” Wind prices have declined by 67 percent in the last eight years and solar 86 percent. “This changes the economics of the entire marketplace.”

As a state legislator in 2000, Plant introduced a bill proposing a renewable portfolio standard. It got little support. So he did it again. Again, other legislators batted the idea down.

Then, in 2004 voters, bypassed the legislator, requiring Xcel to achieve 10 percent renewable generation. Xcel, which had opposed the mandate, then got to work, meeting its goals years ahead of its deadline. It then met the next, steeper renewables portfolio. It’s now at 30 percent renewables and, with the changes recently approved, by late 2025 expects to hit 55 percent renewables.

“That’s an incredible shift in such a short amount of time,” said Plant of this and other changes. Electricity, he said, has decreased 17 percent in price during the 21st century even as there has been a shift to natural gas and now to renewables.

Tom Plant via the Center for the New Energy Economy.

Plant also took a few shots at Tri-State, the wholesale supplier for several of the mountain towns, including Durango, Crested Butte, and Paonia, too. “They have the highest carbon intensity of any power provider in the country,” Plant said.

A recent report conducted by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that Tri-State could close its coal mines and still save money for members in the long run. See story.

Tri-State, for its part, points out that 30 percent of its portfolio is renewables, same as Xcel Energy now. In addition, Xcel is at 44 percent coal powered in Colorado. However, Tri-State benefits from hydroelectricity from federal dams, something not available to the investor-owned Xcel. In addition to that difference, there’s also the difference in the pace of the shift. Tri-State has added renewables, but at a far slower pace than Xcel.

Another way that utilities will add more renewables is if the power can be moved around the country better to match supplies with demands. Hence the wind of the Great Plains could be paired with the sunshine of California and the desert Southwest in places like Park City and Sun Valley. But there are roughly eight markets in the Western states currently, too small to effectively integrate renewables to maximum efficient. Ultimately, said Plant, it will happen.

Plant said that the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan—which President Donald Trump has set out to dismantle—was intended to bring everybody altogether to talk about stuff like energy markets.

“But without that federal push, the question is where will the push come from?” he said. The utilities haven’t really stepped up, at least to the level that Plant and others would like, “so the question is what will cause the utilities to step up?”

Gavan, the conference organizer, compares what is happening now in energy to the giant changes in telecommunications that began in the 1980s.

At the time, AT&T had a monopoly and, with its “baby bells” such as Mountain Bell in Colorado, resisted innovation. Phone calls were also extremely expensive. In the late 1970s, it costs 30 cents a minute to talk to somebody just 5 or 10 miles away.

For example, Colorado’s Grand County had six different prefixes, each one a long-distance call from the next. Winter Park was a long distance call from Granby, and Granby a long distance call from Grand Lake—at 30 cents a minute.

“AT&T acted exactly as Tri-State is acting today: protective, anticompetitive and punitive,” said Gavan. “That’s exactly the wrong game plan.”

The telephone monopoly, he said, had few services available and they were very expensive. Innovators foresaw many possibilities: advanced networking services, voice mail, and then exotic call-handling services of value to businesses.

Gavan was among the challengers of AT&T. In his career he was IT director for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters in Washington D.C. For 18 yeas, he was system engineer and IT director of MCI Telecommunications and later WorldCommunications after its acquisition of MCI. He owns seven patents associated with new technology.

Looking back to the 1980s, he sees many parallels between telecommunications giant AT&T and some of the big utilities of today.

“AT&T tried to throw up roadblock after roadblock after roadblock to slow the change in the telephone business model, and in the process they wound up shorting themselves. The same thing is happening here.”

Much of the conference was devoted to discussions about what those futures might look like. Nobody tried to argue that anything short of massive changes were afoot.

To see the PowerPoints presented at the conference by Plant and others, go to the Engage Delta County website.

@CSUtilities makes a commitment to #solar power

Xcel Energy’s Greater Sandhill Solar Farm north of Alamosa, Colo. Colorado’s San Luis Valley has some of the nation’s best solar resource. Photo/Allen Best

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

On Sept. 20, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board approved adding 150 megawatts of new solar generation, plus battery storage, by 2024. The change means 20 percent of Utilities’ energy will come from renewables. That project, coupled with two others totaling 95 megawatts, will power more than 75,000 homes. The hit to customer billings is an increase of 1 percent over 10 years, Utilities said in a release.

Meantime, Xcel Energy Colorado, serving 1.5 million electric customers in the state, completed a 600-megawatt wind farm, the Rush Creek Wind Project, covering 100,000 acres in five counties: Lincoln, Arapahoe, Elbert, Kit Carson and Cheyenne, The Denver Post reported. Xcel plans to generate most of its power from renewables by 2026.

@CSUtilities extends CEO contract offer to Aram Benyamin

Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

Board extends offer for CEO

In an open session on Sept. 17, the Utilities Board unanimously voted to extend an offer to Aram Benyamin to be the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Nearly 130 candidates from across the United States submitted their resumes for consideration. In June, the Utilities Board reviewed the top candidates and determined which candidates should complete advanced screening. In July, the Board reviewed the information and selected seven candidates to proceed as semifinalists.

Over the last few weeks, the full Utilities Board conducted seven semi-finalist interviews with internal and external candidates. Deliberations on who would be moving on as finalists were concluded prior to the Aug. 22 Board meeting.

As part of the process, there were opportunities for employees and the public to meet the CEO finalists and provide feedback to the Board. The Utilities Board incorporated the feedback they received from employees and the public and considered the information as they interviewed the candidates.

Aram Benyamin, P.E.
General Manager of Energy Supply
Colorado Springs Utilities

Aram Benyamin currently serves as the General Manager of the Energy Supply Department at Colorado Springs Utilities.

Prior to Colorado Springs Utilities, Mr. Benyamin was the Senior Assistant General Manager, head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) power system, the nation’s largest municipal utility.

At LADWP, Mr. Benyamin was responsible for 4,000 employees with an annual budget of $3.9 billion, serving more than four million residents of Los Angeles.

LADWP’s power system spans over four states. It includes 7,327 megawatts of generation capacity, 3,507 miles of high-voltage 500, 230 and 138 kV AC transmission lines, two 900 miles of 500 kV DC lines and a 465 square mile area of overhead and underground power distribution network.

Mr. Benyamin is a Professional Engineer and has a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering from California State University, Los Angeles. He also has a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from University of La Verne and a master’s degree in public of administration (MPA) from California State University, Northridge.

He has also earned a Certificate, Senior Executives in State and Local Government, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government; Certificate, Executive Business Management Program, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Anderson School of Management; Certificate, Engineering and Technical Management, UCLA; Certificate, Business Management Program, UCLA; Certificate, Leadership for the 21st Century, UCLA; Certificate, Total Quality Management, UCLA; Certificate, Construction Management, UCLA.

Mr. Benyamin’s current and past board member and trustee affiliations include YMCA Downtown Colorado Springs Board Member, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Worldwide District Committee Board Member, Boys and Girls Scouts commissioner, troop committee member and volunteer, Trustee of Joint Safety and Training Institutes, Southern California Public Power Association board member, Large Public Power Council board member and California Municipal Utilities Association board member.

  • View Mr. Benyamin’s resume.
  • See Mr. Benyamin written responses to interview questions.
  • Read Mr. Benyamin’s video interview transcript.
  • From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Monday, Sept. 17, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted to offer the energy supply general manager, Aram Benyamin, a contract as the new CEO of the $2 billion enterprise.

    Benyamin would replace Jerry Forte, who retired in May after more than 12 years as CEO.

    He came to Utilities in 2015 from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power after he was ousted the previous year due to his close association with the electrical workers union, according to media reports. He also had supported the challenger of Eric Garcetti, who was elected as mayor.

    Benyamin tells the Independent that he will accept the offer, although details are being worked out, including the salary. Forte was paid $447,175 a year.

    Benyamin will take his cues on major policy issues from the Utilities Board but does have thoughts on power supply, water rights and other issues involving the four services offered by Utilities: water, wastewater, electricity and gas.

    He says he hopes to see more options emerge for Drake Power Plant, a downtown coal-fired plant that’s been targeted for retirement in 2035. That’s way too late, according to some residents who have pushed for an earlier decommissioning date…

    Utilities has been slower than some to embrace solar and wind, because of the price point, but Benyamin says prices are going down. “Every time we put out an RFP [request for proposals] the prices are less,” he says, adding that renewables will play a key role in replacing Drake’s generation capacity, which at present provides a quarter to a third of the city’s power.

    While sources are studied, he says the city is moving ahead with “rewiring the system” to prepare for shutting down the plant. But he predicted a new source of generation will be necessary.

    Though he acknowledged he’s not fully versed in Utilities’ water issues, he says it’s his goal to “serve the city first.”

    “Any resources we have we need to prioritize them to the need of the city today and the future growth and then decide what level of support we can give to anybody else,” he says.

    The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee earlier this year called for lowering the cost of water and wastewater service for outsiders — notably bedroom communities outside the city limits which are running lower on water or face water contamination issues.

    Benyamin also says he’s open to further studying reuse of water. “Any chance we have to recycle water or use gray water for irrigation or any other use that would take pressure off our supplies, that’s always a great idea to look into,” he says.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

    “My short-term vision is to take a look at the organization and kind of recalibrate the vision of what a public utility should be and how a public utility should fit into the vision of the city itself,” Benyamin said.

    Long-term goals include identifying what fuel changes Utilities will face and examining the water supply and transmission, he said.

    Benyamin said he wants to insert leadership that will boost revenues while maintaining competitive rates. He also foresees increasing renewable energy production and energy storage.

    “Renewables and storage are the trend of the future,” he said. “That’s where we’re going.”

    Technology for storage and renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are becoming more efficient and affordable, Benyamin said. Combining those two factors with improved distribution of electricity will enable Utilities to be more versatile, he said.

    The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown is to be closed no later than 2035, but Benyamin said that date could be moved up significantly with more technology, storage and transmission options.

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    What we know so far about Denver’s commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 — @COindependent #ActOnClimate

    Xcel Energy proposes to close two of its coal-fired generating units at Comanche, indicated by smokestacks at right. The stack at left, for the plant completed in 2010, provides energy for a portion of Aspen and for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. In the foreground is the largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains at its opening. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Colorado Independent (Shannon Mullane):

    Denver has now become the 10th, and largest, Colorado municipality to commit to 100 percent of its electricity being powered by renewable energy.

    Mayor Michael Hancock announced the initiative at Monday’s State of the City address, then offered some details at a Tuesday news conference.

    The goal is part of Denver’s new 2018 80×50 Climate Action Plan, which targets sectors with the highest greenhouse gas emissions and establishes a strategy to reduce those emissions by 80 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050.

    “While the White House has made a show of stepping back on this issue, it’s important to know that we listen to the people of our city; we listen to our stakeholders, and Denver can keep moving forward and we will remain committed,” Hancock said.

    Aspen already uses 100 percent renewable energy sources to power the city, and Boulder, Breckenridge, Lafayette, Longmont, Nederland, the City and County of Pueblo, and Summit County have each committed to doing the same, according to the Sierra Club.

    Denver currently ranks third in the nation for the worst urban heat island effect. Caused by human land uses like large paved areas, this effect causes Denver to heat up to 23 degrees hotter on average than nearby rural areas, according to the 2017 80×50 Climate Goal: Stakeholder Report. The report also says Denver can expect other climate impacts, such as increased frequency of extreme weather events, plus reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt.

    “This isn’t just an environmental issue. … It’s about health, it’s about equity, … it’s about community and it’s also a jobs issue,” Hancock said. “We took all that information and the science behind it, and we developed a pathway to get us to 80 percent reductions by 2050.”

    Three sectors — buildings, transportation and electricity supply —make up 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Denver. The 80×50 plan involves a series of interim goals to reduce emissions in each sector.

    For example, in 2025, all municipal buildings will use renewable electricity, Hancock pledged. By 2030, he said, the entire Denver community will use 100 percent renewable electricity.

    In order to achieve this goal, Denver must work closely with Xcel Energy Colorado, Denver’s main electricity provider. In early March, Hancock and Xcel Energy Colorado president David Eaves signed the Energy Future Partnership, a formal commitment to collaborate as Denver pursues its renewable energy goals.

    In August 2017, Xcel laid out a plan to draw 55 percent of its energy statewide from renewables by 2026, a proposal that is currently under review by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

    Right now, 44 percent of the electricity Xcel provides Denver comes from coal, while natural gas and renewable energy sources are almost equal, at 28 percent and 25 percent respectively, according to Xcel’s 2017 Annual Community Energy Report for Denver.

    With Xcel’s 2026 target, Denver would already receive 55 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
    “That allows us to chart a path to say, given what we know, what do we need for Denver to get to 100 percent?” said Thomas Herrod, climate and policy analyst for the city.

    Although Denver will still receive 45 percent of its energy from non-renewable sources after 2030, it will implement enough other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to achieve net-zero non-renewable energy use, Herrod said.

    Many of these projects involve the building and transportation sectors, which will take until 2050 to reach their end goals, the city has said.

    While Denver plans to reach 15 percent electric vehicle registrations in Denver by 2025, its goal is that all passenger vehicles, taxis and transportation network vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, will be electric by 2050. The hope is that all public transportation will be carbon-free, and after infrastructure expansion, more commuters will depend on telecommuting, biking, walking or using public transit to get to work.

    Denver’s population has also doubled since 1960, increased by nearly 25 percent since 2000, and was estimated at over 700,000 as of 2017.

    While the city expands, low-income families are pushed farther out, said Jeff Su, executive director of Mile High Connects. The city is partnering with Mile High Connects, a collaborative of 23 grassroots or philanthropic organizations and financial institutions, to make sure that public transportation is affordable for low-income families.

    “Families that are already spending 50 percent of their income on housing and transportation cannot afford any more increases on their energy bill as we make this shift to renewable energy,” Su said.

    For four years, the city and Mile High Connects have been working on a low-income transit fare. In September, the Regional Transportation District board will be voting on a 40 percent discount for all families at 185 percent or below the federal poverty level, Su said, asking that city and community groups urge the RTD board to accept this low-income fare.

    For building infrastructure, the plan includes six benchmarks, starting with a 15 percent reduction in energy use in commercial buildings by 2020, moving to a 20 percent reduction in residential homes, and ending with 50 percent reduction of energy use in commercial buildings in 2050. The plan also sets goals for reducing thermal heating emissions and making new buildings net zero energy.

    This means more aggressive energy codes, incentives for new buildings, and a home-energy rating system for residential buildings so that owners, renters and potential buyers can make informed decisions about a home’s efficiency and operating costs, according to the Climate Action Plan.

    Denver first began working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 when it released the 2007 Climate Action Plan and current governor and then-mayor John Hickenlooper, signed on to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

    In 2012, the city accomplished these goals when it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per capita relative to 2005 values. Then, in 2015, Denver released the first version of its 80×50 goal in its 2015 Climate Action Plan, followed by a two-year stakeholder input process that incorporated expertise from 44 different organizations.

    In order to meet The 2020 Sustainability Goals, the first set of benchmarks in the city’s long-term plan, Denver has two years to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by about a million metric tons, from 12.79 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent to 11.8 mmtCO2e. and to meet a variety of consumption reduction targets and identified metrics for improving air quality, food, health and nine other quality of life categories.
    “Let’s be clear, there’s a lot that needs to be done to get us there, but we have a lot to build on as well,” Hancock said, referring to the Energize Denver Program and plans to build more electric charging stations, bike paths, walking paths and more efficient public transportation.

    “This plan shows that the tools to solve this generational challenge are available and affordable today.”

    @CAPArizona chooses #solar over #coal

    From The High Country News (Jessica Kutz):

    In one of the latest bids to save the Navajo Generating Station, the West’s largest coal-burning power plant, the Department of Interior has stepped in to try and stave off its closure. Last week, Timothy Petty, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, sent a letter to the Central Arizona Project, a regional water utility, pressuring it to continue purchasing electricity from the power plant, which is slated to close in 2019.

    In the past, the water project, which is operated by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, has purchased most of its power from the generating station. However, with the impending closure of the plant, the utility began looking to new and cheaper energy sources, including renewables like solar. On Thursday, despite the Interior Department’s recommendation, CAP’s board voted to sign a 20-year power purchase agreement with a solar company.

    Navajo Generating Station. Photo credit: Wolfgang Moroder.

    Those working to save the plant fear that CAP’s decision to move forward with alternative suppliers will prevent any potential investors from coming forward to buy the generating station. However, the utility has said it will still consider purchasing electricity from the power plant if a new owner can “provide competitively priced power,” CAP spokeswoman DeEtte Person said in an email.

    The battle to keep the coal-fired power plant running is emblematic of a larger national effort to keep coal in operation, despite market forces that favor natural gas. As part of his “energy dominance” mandate, President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to bolster the country’s coal production, moving to lift regulatory burdens to increase the profitability of the energy source. Time and again those efforts have proven inadequate to save the struggling industry.

    Several attempts have already been made in the case of the Navajo Generating Station. In April, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that would provide a multi-million dollar tax break for coal in Arizona, as a way to attract a potential buyer for the generating station. A few weeks ago, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., revealed a draft bill that would require the operator of CAP to purchase as “much of its total power requirements as possible” from the station until the utility has paid off its $1.1 billion debt. In addition to that mandate, the bill would temporarily exempt any potential new owner of the plant from having to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act review, and would waive Clean Air Act requirements, according to AZ Central.

    If no buyer comes forward — a Chicago-based company has said it might make an offer — the plant will close in December 2019. The generating station supplies over 700 jobs, 90 percent of which are held by citizens of the Navajo Nation. In a statement, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye asked for more time to find a buyer before utilities like the CAP pursue alternatives. “We should continue to work to find solutions to keep the plant operating while supporting both the Navajo economy and families,” he said. Both the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation also receive royalties from coal production, with 85 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s annual budget coming from the generating station.

    In the same week that the Interior Department put pressure on the Arizona utility to buy power from the generating station, a leaked White House draft memo directed the Department of Energy to save struggling coal and nuclear plants across the country. The memo described plans to order grid operators to buy energy from coal and nuclear plants for at least two years, allegedly to boost the resilience of the power grid, according to a statement from the White House.

    Despite a coal-friendly administration, Thursday’s vote for solar by the CAP board suggests that coal is no longer considered an economically viable option for future energy generation. Addressing representatives from both the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation at Thursday’s board meeting, CAP’s Board President Lisa Atkins stated that the utility was “not at war with coal.” Rather, it was seeking a “long-term, cost-effective, reliable and diverse power portfolio.” Coal, it would appear, no longer has a prime spot in that energy mix.

    Jessica Kutz is an editorial intern at High Country News.

    This article was first published June 8, 2018 on The High Country News.

    Natural gas and wind energy killed coal, not ‘war on coal’ — @CUBoulderNews

    Colorado Green, located between Springfield and Lamar, was Colorado’s first, large wind farm. Photo/Allen Best

    Here’s the release from the University of Colorado (Andrew Sorensen):

    Cheap natural gas prices and the increasing availability of wind energy are pummeling the coal industry more than regulation, according to a new economic analysis from the University of Colorado Boulder and North Carolina State University.

    Co-lead author Daniel Kaffine, CU Boulder associate professor in economics, looked at natural gas, wind and coal-fired power generation across 20 U.S. states from 2008 to 2013 in the study, which was published in the American Economic Journal this month.

    The study found a “significant” link between plummeting natural gas prices, increased wind generation capability and the drop-off in U.S. coal burning.

    “While either factor in isolation would have cut into coal’s share of the market, the combination of the two factors proved to be a potent one-two punch,” Kaffine said.

    When the researchers applied 2013 natural gas prices and wind generation levels to the 2008 energy market, they found utilities likely would have cut coal-fired generation overnight. That suggests federal regulations like the 2014 Clean Power Plan have not been main drivers in the decline of coal-generated electricity in the U.S.

    “The biggest single factor here is the decline in natural gas prices due to advances in drilling and production technologies used in natural gas extraction,” Kaffine said. “To the extent there is a ‘war on coal’, it’s a war being fought primarily in the marketplace between gas and coal.”

    Coal-fired generation, according to the paper, dropped roughly 25 percent from 2007 to 2013, while natural gas prices decreased dramatically, largely due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Wind generation increased over that period thanks to state-level renewable energy portfolio standards and declining costs.

    The study, The Fall of Coal: Joint Impacts of Fuel Prices and Renewables on Generation and Emissions, found natural gas prices had a larger impact on nationwide coal-fired generation than wind, but geography plays a factor Kaffine said.

    “In the eastern U.S., where wind generation is less prominent and natural gas was particularly cheap, the fall in coal generation is almost completely driven by declining natural gas prices,” Kaffine explained. “However, in the central part of the U.S., wind played a more important role, though was still relatively less important than falling gas prices.”

    Along with the blame for killing coal, natural gas and renewables also deserve some credit. According to the study, the decrease in coal burning from 2007 to 2013 curbed carbon dioxide emissions by 500 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking more than 100 million cars off the road each year.

    Kaffine and his co-author Harrison Fell plan to follow up their research by diving into the local environmental impacts of wind generation in densely populated areas.

    Colorado lawmakers should nurture the electric vehicle market, not punish it

    Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summint, August 21, 2017.

    From ColoradoPolitics.com (Will Toor):

    EVs improve our air quality. Vehicles are one of the two largest sources of air pollution, and a majority of Colorado residents live in areas of the Front Range that violate federal air quality standards. Dirty air is unhealthy for all of us, and it has a particularly negative impact on children, the elderly, and people suffering from asthma or lung disease. Electric vehicles have no emissions from the tailpipe and are so much more efficient than gas cars. A 2017 study for the Regional Air Quality Council found that EVs emit 99 percent less volatile organic compounds and 30 percent less nitrogen oxides than a new gas car today.

    EVs bring real economic benefits to consumers. Fuel cost savings can approach $1,000 per year for every electric vehicle. If Colorado is able to achieve the goals set out in the state’s recently adopted EV plan, consumers will save over $500 million per year by 2030. Those consumer dollars will be reinvested in our communities, supporting local businesses and creating jobs…

    But the economic benefits don’t just help EV drivers; getting more EVs on the road also will lower everyone’s electric bills. EVs help utilities make more efficient use of their existing power plants and grid infrastructure (which all of us have to pay for), thereby spreading out the costs more and reducing the share that each of us pay.

    Here’s how that works. Utilities have to build their power plants for peak electrical use, which normally happens during the day – and all of us pay a portion of that infrastructure cost. But most EV drivers charge at night in preparation for the next morning’s drive, and night is when other electrical demands are low and power plants have excess capacity. So by charging their cars at night, EV drivers help utilities pay down their fixed costs. A study by a national consulting firm found that every EV on the road drives down the total electricity costs paid by other customers by $650 — and by 2030, ratepayers could be saving $70 million per year! The same study found that high levels of EV adoption would lead to total net economic benefits across Colorado of $43 billion by 2050.

    Despite all of these benefits, the state Senate recently voted in a party line vote to end the state electric vehicle tax credits (the House rejected this bill). Others have called for new fees on EVs, based on the argument that EV drivers don’t pay gas tax. But EV owners already pay an extra vehicle registration fee, that is designed to pay the same amount into the highway fund as a gasoline vehicle that is as efficient as an EV would pay. It doesn’t make sense to add even more fees at a time when EVs still make up a very small part of the market.

    If we want to achieve all the benefits that EVs bring, we need to get a lot more on the road. Because Colorado has supported EVs with a tax credit and state investment in charging stations, the EV market here is one of the best in the country, with the sixth-highest market share of any state in 2017. Sales are growing by over 50 percent per year.