Thursday, November 22, 2007

Xcel to Close Two Power Plants

We reported that Xcel was planning to close down some of its coal-fired power plants in Colorado in order to reduce harmful air pollution. Well, it's official. Xcel plans to shut down the Arapahoe and Cameo power plants, located in Denver and Grand Junction, respectively. And that's not all. Xcel also announced it intends to increase power generation from renewables like solar and wind, and increase efficiency.

The move is the beginning of a bold paradigm shift. To truly reduce greenhouse gases and other harmful air pollutants, and safeguard public health, it's going to take a shift from fossil fuels to renewables. It's going to take doing away with the old and bringing in the new. It's going to take a new way of doing business, and Xcel seems to be leading the charge.

It's true that Xcel plans to increase its use of natural gas to generate power in the near-term, which raises serious concerns. After all, natural drilling throughout Colorado is contributing to terrible air quality and widespread health concerns. But doing away with fossil fuels like natural gas won't happen overnight. Shifting from coal to natural gas is a good move in the right direction, but it isn't the last or the best move to make.

Let's put this into context. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all the natural gas fired power plants in Colorado combined release less than one half the amount of smog forming pollution spewed by the coal burning Arapahoe power plant in Denver. And the amount of carbon dioxide released by the Cameo and Arapahoe power plants combined equals the amount released by Colorado's largest natural gas-fired power plant.

While natural gas isn't perfect, it isn't hard to see that it shines compared to coal.

In the long-term though , protecting our health and our climate won't take natural gas, it will take smarter energy use. Moving away from coal and toward renewables is a smart move Hopefully, companies like Xcel will continue to move in the smart direction. Surely, citizens and shareholders will be there to help them along.


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