Colorado Springs, CO — Today, in a historic 7-2 vote, the Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) Board voted to accelerate the timeline for closure for its two coal plants and make critical investments in renewable energy. Martin Drake, one of the nation’s last urban coal plants will now close by 2023 and Ray Nixon will close by 2030. The utility board voted to approve portfolio #17 for its 2020 Electric Resource Plan (ERP), replacing 416 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power with 500MW of new wind energy, 150 MW of solar power, and over 400MW of battery storage in order to ensure modern and reliable energy for Colorado Springs. CSU leadership has ensured that no employees will lose their jobs in the utility’s energy, creating a national model for a just transition off fossil fuels.
“Today’s monumental decision will make our community safer without more fossil fuels. History tells us that low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately bear the burden of ugly, toxic power plants in their neighborhoods. But this form of injustice is coming to an end in Colorado Springs,” said Amy Gray, Volunteer & JEDI Director with 350 Colorado.
The 500MW of new wind power will be Colorado Springs’ first investment in what is now the cheapest form of energy in the state. A 2019 analysis by Strategen found that retiring both Drake and Nixon by 2023 and replacing them with wind would save customers $160 million.
“Earlier this year, Colorado College met its carbon neutrality goals, and other Colorado communities are doing their part to reduce emissions and combat climate change. This new energy plan is Colorado Springs doing it’s part too,” said Westly Joseph, a student leader with Colorado College’s Office of Sustainability. “It is our city leaders’ responsibility to ensure that my generation has a safe future here in Colorado Springs. We need a clean energy future and now Colorado Springs is on the path to get there.”
Local volunteers and grassroots organizations have been advocating for the closure of Drake for over a decade, citing the plant’s numerous air quality violations. In the final vote today, the decision by the utilities board took into account critical opinions from ratepayers across Colorado Springs, including evaluating youth input. Over 200 local residents provided public comment in support of Portfolio #17, sending a strong message in favor of bold climate action.
“This decision is a huge step forward in our state’s efforts to address the climate crisis and reduce pollution in order to protect the health and safety of Coloradans,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado. “We applaud the decision-makers and activists who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to bring about this important moment shifting to a more affordable, clean energy future.”
The Martin Drake Coal Power Plant was originally scheduled to be decommissioned in 2035 and there were no prior plans to close the Nixon Power Plant. Today’s vote closes Martin Drake 12 years ahead of schedule, which will improve the air quality for thousands of Colorado Springs residents living in its shadow.
“Today is a historic win for Colorado Springs and the region, but the work to move Colorado off of coal is not done yet. Xcel Energy was one of the first utilities to make the commitment to 80% carbon-free electricity by 2030, but now it’s the only utility with plans to operate coal plants in Colorado past 2030. Cleaning up the electric sector is essential to meeting Colorado’s greenhouse reduction goals, and the state’s largest utility will need to do its part. Let’s take a moment to celebrate Colorado Springs City Council voting for the future, but after today, all eyes are on Xcel Energy and its Colorado coal plants,” said Anna McDevitt Senior Campaign Rep Beyond Coal with Colorado Sierra Club