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Longmont Meeting Attendees Want 100 Percent Renewable Energy, Even If It Costs More

November 6, 2018

Brad Kaufman, with Longmont Power & Communications, works Monday to set up power to homes that will be built in the West Grange development in Longmont.

Platte River Power Authority officials heard a majority of Longmont residents at a meeting Monday night express a preference for 100 percent renewable energy, even if it means paying more in utility costs each month.

About 50 people attended the meeting at the Longmont Museum hosted by Platte River — the nonprofit, member-owned wholesale power provider for Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins and Estes Park.

The public forum was the third held by Platte River to gather feedback from residents of its member cities regarding its integrated resource plan, which will lay out the energy production resources the power provider will use for decades to come.

A real-time survey Platte River officials took of those present and those watching online via Facebook live showed 58 percent would pay either $21 to $30 more per month or more than $30 more per month to receive energy from completely renewable sources, while only 3 percent said they would pay no more for a clean grid. The remaining 39 percent of respondents said they would pay between $5 and $20 more per month.

Another survey response showed 78 percent feel it is “very important” to have 100 percent renewable energy in the city.

About a dozen Longmont area residents addressed a panel of Platte River officials, all of them speaking in favor of a totally renewable power supply, with some calling the need to do so “dire” and “urgent” because of the potential impacts of climate change caused by human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

“I don’t always understand all of the technology, but I have a deep understanding of how I feel about my grandchildren and the climate I’m leaving them, and what their grandchildren will face and their grandchildren. So I request of you to be a leader, be a role model ... in the state, in the country, in the world,” Longmont resident Marilyn Belchinsky said. “Do your damndest to make 100 percent renewable energy way faster than you’re talking about. ... We don’t have time to waste.”

While it is no guarantee the power provider will meet the goal set this year by both the Longmont and Fort Collins city councils to convert to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, Platte River officials assured the crowd they are doing what they can to make the transition.

Jason Frisbie, CEO for the power provider, said its addition of 20 megawatts-worth of solar power generation — which will include a five megawatt battery storage component — planned for next year, plus up to another 150 megawatts-worth of wind power through the Roundhouse project by 2021, will make the regional utility the first in Colorado with more than 50 percent of its production coming from renewable resources.

Frisbie also noted the utility’s plans to shut down its Craig Unit 1 coal plant in 2025, despite the facility having an estimated useful life running through 2042. To meet a 100-percent renewable goal, Platte River also would have to shut down its other coal plants, including the Rawhide Unit 1 plant near the Wyoming border that is lauded for its efficiency.

“Our plan, as it always has been, is to be a leader. But if we’re going to accomplish what almost everyone in this room has asked for, it will do no good if we as Platte River Power Authority become 100 percent renewable, and everyone else around us 100 percent coal,” Frisbie said. “This is a global problem. We’re going to try and provide leadership, an example of showing off our system and how we can continue to afford to make progress.”

Platte River spokesman Steve Roalstad said attendees of similar meetings in recent weeks in Estes Park and Fort Collins also mostly drew supporters of a 100 percent renewable energy model.

“They are very sophisticated. They understand the need for technological advancement in energy storage,” Roalstad said.

Platte River has hired four consultants — firms Pace Global, HDR and Burns and McDonnell, as well as Colorado State University — to assist in evaluating the impacts a combination of energy portfolios will have on the region’s economy, environment and residents’ costs, as well as the viability of cutting-edge energy storage techniques in the near future.

The integrated resource plan is expected to be finished and submitted to federal officials for approval by mid-2020, a year earlier than required since Platte River last submitted one in 2016 and a new plan is required every five years.

A fourth public meeting will be in Loveland at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Embassy Suites, 4705 Clydesdale Parkway. Platte River also is conducting a survey by email and phone of 250 residences and 250 businesses in each of its four member cities to gather feedback on their desires for its future energy portfolio.

Last month’s Platte River board meeting resulted in a directive to the power provider’s staff to draft a policy that would set a goal for its power production portfolio to match the goals of its owner communities, which would include Longmont’s and Fort Collins’ pleas for 100 percent renewable, Roalstad said.

An unofficial tally of support for the power provider adopting such a policy showed the board members favored doing so by 7-1, Roalstad said, and an official vote on the policy will take place at the Dec. 6 board meeting.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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