By William DeOreo
I am a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives in House District 10. One of the issues in which I am interested is energy security for Colorado. After spending many hours reading Xcel Energy’s Electric Resource Plan for 2030, I fear Colorado is headed for an energy crisis sometime after 2030. The main issue is that the plan relies too heavily on intermittent and unreliable weather-based sources of energy and totally ignores the best carbon-free energy source: nuclear power. The Democrat controlled legislature seems oblivious to the danger.
Most of the existing coal fired generation will be retired or converted to natural gas by 2028. This will make the system totally dependent on gas for the bulk of its dispatchable energy, which is that energy that can be turned on at will. Wind and solar are only available when conditions are right.
Natural gas prices are volatile. During the last 12 months natural gas prices have ranged from $3.54 per mcf to $9.66, and in times of stress they can rise quickly. Between March and June of 2022 gas prices more than doubled, going from $4.00 to $9.66. If the wind and solar energy sources are not available, for instance during a winter storm, we could find ourselves in a worse situation than Texas did last winter.
Wind and solar are inefficient with respect to the actual amount of energy they deliver compared to the faceplate ratings. According to Xcel’s studies, the average capacity factor for wind farms is only 13%, which means our existing 4124 MW of wind resources only count for 553 MW of firm capacity. Overall, the capacity factors for all of the wind, solar, storage and hydropower resources is just around 25%. Keep in mind that these estimates are based on statistics, and there is no guarantee that the actual performance won’t be lower. At times it could be zero.
Xcel is counting on what they call “generic” projects to supply the required 4000 MW of new renewable energy. A generic project is one that Xcel believes will be provided by private companies. Remember, all renewable energy projects depend heavily on tax subsidies. As Warren Buffet said, the only reason he invests in wind is for the tax credits.
Xcel is planning to spend over $1 billon on a 600-mile transmission system around the eastern part of the state. The expectation is that the private sector will then step in and build the required energy projects. The question is: What happens if the tax credits are taken away, or our bankrupt Federal government can’t deliver them? Are we sawing off the branch on which we are sitting?
Leaving aside the huge amounts of land that this system will take up and the environmental damage it will do to farmland and wildlife (especially birds), there are too many moving parts that can go wrong when we need them.
I find it amazing that nowhere in the hundreds of pages does the word “nuclear” appear. It is as if Xcel has forgotten that there even is such a technology as nuclear energy. There are solid existing designs on the market that could be employed now to provide safe and economic carbon free electricity. The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor is fully licensed and uses proven technology. Each reactor provides 1100 MW of fully dispatchable power. Westinghouse has actually built them. In addition, there are many promising new technologies such as molten salt reactors that can use “waste” fuel or Thorium to breed their own fuel. These are probably going to be online in the 10 year time horizon. Wyoming is building a new reactor near Rock Springs using one of the new designs. Colorado should be a leader in this effort.
I advocate that the Clean Air Act of Colorado be modified to include nuclear power as renewable energy, and authorize that funds from the innovative energy fund be used to promote R&D and implementation of nuclear power. The State Legislature should take the long view and not naively go down the path that Germany is now finding so painful by relying too heavily on weather-based energy.
William DeOreo is a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives’ 10th House District.