Colorado Springs gives Martin Drake coal units more time – for now

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted on Nov. 18 to approve energy portfolio D, amended to include a Martin Drake Power Plant (Units 5, 6 and 7) closure date no later than 2035, and to increase the demand-side management goal to 12%, with a 2% rate cap.

The board tabled a decision on Drake Unit 5 options until the Dec. 16 board meeting, said the Colorado Springs Utilities website. The board has been looking at options that include retiring this coal unit by the end of 2017, switching it to natural gas or mothballing it. The full Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2016.

The Martin Drake Power Plant consists of Unit 5 (46 MW), Unit 6 (77 MW) and Unit 7 (131 MW), for a total of 254 MW. CSU officials want to look at the future of Units 6 and 7 more intently in an EIRP process that will begin in 2018, among other things after the effects of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan are more clear. Unit 5 is singled out for action more quickly because of needed investment in the unit in the near term.

Colorado Springs Utilities does it planning through the Electric Integrated Resource Plan. As a requirement for purchasing federal hydroelectric power from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), it must conduct a thorough technical analysis and diligent public process once every five years. Changing factors, such as regulations, cost of service, new technologies and customer preference, could trigger an EIRP update at any time.

Some of the factors impacting the new EIRP include:

  • Incorporating the Drake Decommissioning Study data from engineering firm HDR Inc.;
  • New environmental regulations for CO2;
  • Colorado Renewable Energy Standards;
  • Grid and cyber security requirements;
  • Demand response (incentives for customers to reduce demand during peak times); and
  • Market risk of natural gas.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.