DENVER — Xcel Energy has proposed a tentative agreement to close Colorado’s largest coal-fired power plant by 2035, well ahead of its original retirement date of 2070, as regulators consider how the largest utility operating in the state can reduce its carbon emissions.
Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy filed the agreement with the state Wednesday affecting its Comanche 3 coal-fired unit at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, Colorado Public Radio reported.
Comanche 3 has faced operational, equipment and financial problems that led to more than 700 days of unplanned shutdowns since 2010 and higher-than-anticipated electricity costs, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission said in a report earlier this year.
If approved, Xcel’s plan to close it could reduce the utility’s carbon dioxide emissions in Colorado by close to 90% this decade, CPR reported.
The $1.3 billion unit went into service in 2010 but has been plagued by poor maintenance and oversight, with electricity costs up to 45% higher than projected, according to the state report. Comanche 3 also was Colorado’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
The plan calls for Comanche 3 to run at half-capacity by 2025 and a third of capacity by 2029.
Earlier this year, Xcel Energy proposed advancing Comanche 3′s closure to 2040, part of an $8 billion plan that included new renewable energy and power transmission projects, CPR said. Xcel sought to negotiate with a range or groups including environmentalists before filing its plan, which is supported by state and local governments, including the city and county of Pueblo.
“We think that it meets our major goals,” said Keith Hay, director of policy for the Colorado Energy Office. “It achieves earlier greenhouse gas emissions reductions, it achieves more greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030, but just as importantly, it provides security to the city and county of Pueblo.”
Xcel paid nearly $31 million in property taxes to Pueblo last year, and under the proposal it would continue to pay taxes through 2040 either directly or from alternative power generation.
Environmental groups didn’t accept the proposal, arguing it doesn’t go far enough to cut emissions. The utilities commission plans to start hearings on the plan in December and is expected to make a decision early next year.