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Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Plan

Our plan will produce cleaner air and better electric reliability at a low cost

In late 2010, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved an emissions reduction plan for Xcel Energy under the state's Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.

The plan calls for us to:

  • Retire 702 megawatts of coal-fueled generation, including the coal-fueled unit at Valmont Generating Plant in Boulder, CO, Arapahoe Plant units 3 and 4, and three coal-fueled units at Cherokee Generating Plant in Denver
  • Replace retired generation with a new, cleaner 569-MW natural gas plant built on the Cherokee site
  • Switch a fourth unit at Cherokee Plant from using coal to natural gas
  • Reduce emissions from 951 MW of coal-fueled generation by installing modern emissions controls

The entire effort is expected cost about $1 billion and is estimated to have an average annual rate impact over the next 10 years of approximately 2 percent. We expect to reduce nitrogen oxides by about 86 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by 83 percent, and mercury emissions by 82 percent from the plants included in the plan. The project will contribute to a projected system-wide reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 2005 of 35 percent by 2020.

The University of Colorado Leeds School of Business forecasts the project will have a total economic impact of about $590 million on the state of Colorado between 2010 and 2026, resulting in about 1,500 jobs at the peak of construction.

Work is well underway to implement Xcel Energy’s emissions reduction plan under Colorado’s Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.

  • The synchronous condenser was successfully installed on Cherokee unit 2
  • Cherokee units 1 and 2 were retired in 2012 and 2011, respectively
  • Arapahoe units 3 and 4 were retired at the end of 2013
  • Installation of new emission controls at Pawnee finished in August 2014; the equipment is operating as designed, keeping emission rates below new permit levels
  • Construction was complete in fall 2014 on approximately 34 miles of gas transmission pipeline from a new gas metering facility in Fort Lupton, Colo., to Cherokee Plant
  • Construction of the new natural gas combined-cycle plant at Cherokee is complete and the new plant is producing power
  •  Construction is underway on the emission controls at Hayden units 1 and 2; the equipment on unit 1 is planned to begin operating in third quarter 2015

We worked with a coalition of policymakers and legislators to support Colorado's Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. The legislation was enacted in spring of 2010 and required regulated utilities, such as Xcel Energy, to work to reduce emissions from coal-fueled power plants.

It was prompted in part by the Denver metro area’s non-compliance with several pending air quality mandates. Without the legislation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) likely would have mandated a compliance program for the state of Colorado in early 2011.

Under the act, we were required to propose a multi-year plan to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 70 to 80 percent or greater from 900 megawatts of coal-fueled generation by 2018 and meet “reasonably foreseeable” environmental requirements.

In meeting the requirements of the legislation, our objective was to develop and advocate for potential emissions reduction plans that would provide clean, reliable power without burdening customers with enormous costs. We studied hundreds of options and proposed multiple scenarios for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to decide the best option.

After reviewing thousands of documents, conducting weeks of hearings and listening to the more than 30 parties that participated in the process, the commission selected a plan. We believe the approved plan:

  • Was the result of an extensive and fair process
  • Results in significant emissions reductions
  • Meets the state’s federal air quality challenges
  • Provides for a diverse mix of energy resources and continued electric reliability
  • Retires aging coal-fueled plants
  • Produces all these benefits at a low cost to customers
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