Published 6:37 a.m. | Updated 11:18 a.m.
Colorado regulators have approved Xcel Energy's plan to retire two coal-fired generating stations in Pueblo a decade early, part of a plan to bolster the utility's share of power from renewable sources.
The Pueblo Chieftain reports the Colorado Public Utilities Commission agreed to the plan Monday. The newspaper notes a formal written ruling will arrive in September, but approved Xcel's decommission request in the meantime.
Xcel said in June that one unit at the Comanche Generating Station would be retired in 2022, 11 years early, and the other in 2025, 10 years ahead of schedule. There are 80 jobs on the line and by 2025, workers will either retire or be placed in new positions, according to the utility.
A third coal-fired unit would remain in operation.
Amy Oliver Cooke, director of the Coalition of Ratepayers and an executive vice president and director at the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank, has been a critic of Xcel’s plans. While her group is unhappy with the outcome, they are at least pleased that regulators acknowledged the costs.
“Retiring Comanche I and II early will be a boon to Wall Street at the expense of Main Streets across Colorado,” Cooke said in a released statement. “We are disappointed that the Commissioners didn’t require the monopoly utility to keep its promise of a Colorado Energy Plan that saves money for customers.”
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David Cockrell, a proponent of Xcel's plans and a member of Pueblo's Energy Future, said that the city is now poised to become a clean energy hub and reap the benefits of that transition.
“These early retirements will lead to substantial and compelling public health benefits by reducing harmful pollution that adversely affect those living and working in Pueblo, including particularly low income communities near the plants,” Cockrell said in a statement. “This plan will eliminate millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year, while also saving money for hard working Colorado families and businesses.”
Xcel plans to buy two existing gas-fired generating plants in Colorado and add five solar farms and three wind farms.
Some of the new solar farms would be built in Pueblo County, which includes the city of Pueblo. The utility’s plans for wind could also provide a boost for Vestas, which has tower manufacturing plant in the city.