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Opinion: Platte River Power Authority must commit to 100% renewable energy. Period.

The Colorado Sun published a story on Aug. 19 with the headline “Colorado must cut half of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It will lean on oil and gas to do it.”

The story discussed why we need emissions reductions from the oil and gas sector in order to meet Colorado’s goal of a 26% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, because cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants and the transportation sector will not be enough. 

As a resident of Fort Collins, I hope that members of the board of Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) read this article.

Jenna Parker

PRPA supplies the power needs of Fort Collins, Estes Park, Longmont and Loveland. One of their core principles is environmental sustainability, and as one of their customers, I appreciate the effort they have put into advancing clean energy.

For example, PRPA recently committed to shutting down the Rawhide coal-fired power plant by 2030.

That being said, I am deeply disappointed that one of the portfolios charting the future of PRPA’s power generation includes building a new gas-fired power plant in 2030. 

In the Aug. 19 article mentioned above, Jeremy Nichols of Wild Earth Guardians was quoted as saying there is “absolutely no clarity on how the rubber will hit the road” in terms of reaching our state emissions goals.

In this era of climate emergency, PRPA needs to show off how crystal-clear it can be. If you have two portfolios, one that would build a new gas power plant in 2030 and another that commits to 100% renewable energy by 2030, you pick the latter. Simple.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

The fact that we are having to pressure PRPA to choose the latter makes no sense. State emissions goals and dire climate emergency aside, study after study has shown the health costs of oil and gas plants for nearby communities, from increasing the chances of premature birth for pregnant mothers, to chemical burns, asthma and an increased chance of dying from COVID-19.

Oil and gas companies have also shown a propensity for environmental racism; look no further than Extraction Oil and Gas’ construction of a fracking plant next to Bella Romero school in Greeley, which has a student body of 80% Black and brown children, increasing their risk of cancer through the inhalation of benzene.

And if the PRPA board wants to use the holy grail argument of cost, which oil and gas companies whisper into the ears of utility companies and lawmakers in a way that somehow repeatedly drowns out the screams of burning landscapes, poisoned bodies and racial injustice, they will find that argument is no longer there. Renewables are now cost-competitive with oil and gas.

How competitive? The article “Is natural gas a bridge fuel too far with the rise in renewables? It depends on who you ask,” printed in the Denver Post on Jan. 31 quotes a report that found “wind, solar and battery storage would cost less than 90% of [proposed] gas-fired plants” and that “[i]nvestments in renewable energy instead of gas plants would save customers more than $29 billion.”

That 2019 report from the Rocky Mountain Institute, titled “A Bridge Backward? The Risky Economics of New Natural Gas Infrastructure in the United States,” warned that utility companies that invest in new gas infrastructure are risking stranded costs by the mid-2030s. This unveils the truth about arguments that the only cost-effective choice is to build a new gas plant: They are bogus.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Recently, PRPA seems to be leaning slightly more toward the renewable energy portfolio, responding to pressure from its consumers. We need to let PRPA’s board know that we will 100% support the 100% renewable energy portfolio, because it is the only portfolio that makes sense.

Residents of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont, please join PRPA’s next virtual board meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27, to give an oral comment in support of the renewable energy portfolio. Time to make the rubber hit the road.


Jenna Parker is a Ph.D. candidate at Colorado State University in ecology and conservation biology.


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