Decarbonization for Boulder-Is It Feasible?
Submitted by Leslie Glustrom on May 11, 2010 – 10:39pm
What is meant by decarbonization and could Boulder actually do it?
Decarbonization is a relatively recent term that in this case refers to reducing the carbon content of Boulder’s energy, starting with electricity as the first step. The second step would be to decarbonize the transportation system by moving to electric powered vehicles using the highest level of renewable energy possible. After that, there will be many steps to full decarbonization, but as with any large project, the way to begin is to take the first step–which in this case is decarbonization of the electric supply.
According to the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan, about 57% of the City’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to electricity use–with 46% of that being for the commerical and industrial sectors and 11% with the residential sector. By lowering the carbon content of Boulder’s electric supply–or “decarbonizing,” significant reductions can be made in greenhouse gas emissions.
A group of citizens with representation from a number of community groups has suggested that Boulder set a goal of 30% decarbonization by 2012 and 80-100% decarbonization of the electric supply by 2020. There is also a team of people working with the City Staff as the “Decarbonization Tech Team” to explore these possibilities.
Reproduced below is a summary sheet addressing the feasibility of decarbonizing Boulder’s electric supply.
Stepwise Decarbonization–Is it Feasible??
References available from Leslie Glustrom 303-245-8637 lglustrom at gmail.com
Version 1.1 April 30, 2010
Colorado Has Abundant Wind and Solar Resources
Colorado has over 20 times the amount of wind and solar potential needed to power the state, according to analyses done by the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Governor’s Energy Office.(1) In addition, Colorado has significant methane, biomass, geothermal, efficiency and waste-to-energy resources available for potential development.
Colorado Has Thousands of MW of “Wrench Ready” Clean Energy Projects
In April 2009, Xcel (in Colorado) received over 15,000 MW of wind, solar and other renewable energy bids. (2)
Xcel was looking for about 1,000 MW and so will leave approximately 14,000 MW of clean energy projects sitting in notebooks. Bids submitted to Xcel needed to be fully engineered and to show access to the land, the wind turbines or solar panels, the ability to finance and permit the project and a method of transmitting the electricity to market.
Thousands of MW of Clean Energy Projects Could be Built in 2011-2012
Of the bids submitted to Xcel Energy in Colorado in April 2009, over 6,000 MW of wind and over 1,000 MW of solar was proposed for development in 2011 and 2012. Clearly, these are “wrench ready” bids. (3)
Modeling Analyses Indicate that Renewable Energy Is Now Cost Competitive
Adding more renewable energy to Xcel’s system is likely to drive system costs down, not up according to Xcel’s modeling of the bids it received using the assumptions approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. As the costs of fossil fuels rise and as efforts to address pollution from fossil fuel burning increase, the costs of operating fossil fuel generating resources mounts while the costs of renewable energy resources fall. This means that shifting to renewable energy can not only be cleaner, it can help reduce the cost of electricity in the 21st century. (4)
Setting “Stretch” Goals Drives Innovation and Economic Success
The entire history of human civilization is driven by the setting of “stretch” goals—and the individuals, companies and countries that set those goals and meet them invariably profit tremendously. China has strong clean energy goals. The United States is caught in policy gridlock in Washington DC. Every utility in the United States will need to decarbonize in the next 1-2 decades. Either our country will fall into mass chaos or the companies and communities that foresee this need and align themselves according will profit immensely from this need. Will this be Boulder or some other community?
Is There an Electric Provider Willing to Partner withBoulder in Meeting These Decarbonization Goals?
At the present time, it is unclear whether Boulder’s present electricity provider, Xcel Energy, is willing to partner with Boulder in meeting the decarbonization goals that are needed to address climate change, drive economic development and avoid fossil-fuel driven utility rate increases. If Xcel Energy does not want to become a willing partner in this effort, citizens will suggest that it is time to find a new electricity provider and not renew the Xcel franchise agreement that expires in late 2010.
References on the reverse side.
References for Stepwise Decarbonization—Is It Feasible v 1.1 2010-04-30
1) Information on Colorado’s potential for wind and solar can be found in the Governor’s Energy Office report, Connecting Colorado’s Renewable Resources to the Markets,” available for free download fromhttp://rechargecolorado.com/images/uploads/pdfs/23158d65cf0c2de7be220e35d1f7b72a.pdf . Information on the 96 GW of wind potential in Colorado is on pages 8-11. Information on the over 200 GW of Concentrating Solar Power potential is on pages 12-15 and 63 and 64. See especially the bullets at the bottom of page 64. Colorado’s peak electric demand is presently under 12 GW.
2) Information on the 15,000 MW of clean energy bids submitted to Xcel in April 2009 can be found in the “30 Day Report” (submitted May 2009) and the “120 Day Report” (submitted August 2009) to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in Docket 07A-447E, the 2007 Resource Plan. The reports can be downloaded fromhttps://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI.Show_Docket?p_session_id=&p_docket_id=07A-447E .
3) For the information on bids ready for development in 2011 and 2012, see pages 4 and 5 in the 30 Day Report submitted in May 2009 in the 07A-447E Resource Plan Docket. The report can be downloaded from https://www.dora.state.co.us/pls/efi/EFI.Show_Docket?p_session_id=&p_docket_id=07A-447E.
4) Information on Xcel’s modeling of the April 2009 bids can be found in Figures 15 and 16 in the “120 Day Report” submitted in August 2009 to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in the 07A-447E Docket. The report can be downloaded from
Further information and references available from
Leslie Glustrom at lglustrom at gmail.com or 303-245-8637.