Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado lawmakers and local elected officials are urging Xcel Energy to minimize the need for gas-fired power plants and to work toward the highest levels of renewable energy in the company’s upcoming electric resource plan filing.

“Coloradans are doing all they can to reduce emissions, individually, but without immediate, collective efforts we have no hope of slowing the worst climate outcomes. We, as elected officials, and you, as a utility, have the responsibility of reducing emissions on a large-scale basis. A critical component in that process is reducing greenhouse gas pollution from gas and coal plants,” they wrote in a letter sent Tuesday.

The 55 letter signers include many local elected officials, as well as Rep. Judy Amabile, Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, Sen. Lisa Cutter, Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, Rep. Meg Froelich, Sen. Chris Kolker, Sen. Janice Marchman, Rep. Javier Mabrey, House Speaker Julie McCluskie, Rep. Naquetta Ricks, Rep. Marc Snyder, Sen. Tom Sullivan, Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, Rep. Stephanie Vigil, Rep. Jenny Willford and Sen. Faith Winter, all Democratic state lawmakers.

Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest electric utility, submitted its electric resource plan in 2021, which was amended and approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last summer. Electric resource plans are required by the state every four years for regulated utilities to evaluate future electric demand and how they will meet needs.

The first phase — what Xcel already submitted — establishes the resource need. The second phase of planning is when the utility assesses bids and will propose potential new energy resources to replace retiring coal plants — like the one in Pueblo that is set to close early — and meet electricity needs.

That next phase comes as Colorado consumers experience higher energy bills and as new utility regulations passed by the Legislature go into effect.

The lawmakers want Xcel to promise a high investment into wind and solar energy, battery storage and energy efficiency, rather than relying on new gas plants.

“Building new gas plants would cost our communities when it comes to our energy bills, our health and our environment,” Winter said in a statement. “Despite Xcel’s admirable commitments to renewable energy so far, it’s unfortunate the utility’s leaders continue to consider costly new gas infrastructure when we have cheaper and cleaner alternatives.”

The lawmakers also urged Xcel to use available tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to increase its zero-carbon resource portfolio.

Xcel will release a report later this summer to outline potential energy resource portfolios, and the PUC could approve a plan in the fall.