State agency affirms Holy Cross Energy’s ambitious clean energy plan
The utility company now has the most ambitious clean energy plan in Colorado with the goal of using 100% renewable energy sources by 2030
Holy Cross Energy received state verification for its ambitious clean energy plan this month, which confirmed that the company’s strategy to reach a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is both accurate and attainable.
Holy Cross Energy created its latest clean energy plan in 2020, when the company’s board decided to expand upon its 2017 goal of 70% carbon reduction by 2030 and go for a full transition to renewable energy sources over the course of a decade.
President and CEO Bryan Hannegan said that the plan they submitted for state approval is currently the most ambitious in Colorado, and is at the forefront of utility companies transitioning to renewables in the country.
“It’s only one of six such plans of its type anywhere in the United States,” Hannegan said. “By that, I mean the level of ambition, 100%, and also how quickly, 2030. That’s eight years from now. That’s yesterday in electric utility planning terms, and so it means that we have to move at a pace and a scale that’s going to make a difference and hopefully inspire others to act in accordance.”
Holy Cross Energy voluntarily submitted the plan to the state’s Air Pollution Control Division in December and received the news this month that the emissions reduction calculations in the plan are verified and the result is a 99% emissions reduction by 2030.
Hannegan said being a leader in the renewable energy space means that the plans Holy Cross officials are coming up with are made up of original ideas and approaches, many that are the first of their kind. To have a legitimate third party sign off on the feasibility of the plan is an important marker that they are moving in the right direction.
“That renewable energy goal that we developed was something that we didn’t see an analog for. It was something that we really needed to pioneer,” Hannegan said. “We relentlessly take great ideas and try to bring them home, creating a culture of innovation and trying to push the boundaries, because we know we’re going to need to be the first ones to get there to meet our goals.”
The push for moving entirely to renewables is not motivated by just the rising impacts of climate change. It also presents a financial benefit to both the company and its customers.
Hannegan said that the conventional wisdom that renewables are more expensive than fossil fuel resources is no longer true, thanks to technological improvements that have increased the efficiency of renewables while lowering cost levels. Utility companies no longer have to choose between economics and sustainability, because the two now go hand in hand.
“You look at the gasoline pump and the price of crude oil at over $100, and then you compare that volatility in those prices to what we get when we contract with a wind farm for 15 years at a fixed price that doesn’t fluctuate based on world events or supply chain issues or inflationary expenses,” Hannegan said. “So not only are we saving money — and we’ve saved over $15 million in the last several years — we’re also providing more stable power supply costs, which makes up roughly about half of what all of our members pay on their monthly electricity bill.”
As the primary energy provider in Eagle County, Holy Cross Energy also feels the responsibility to be a leader in the county’s goal to reduce overall emissions by 50% by 2030. Electrical consumption currently accounts for about a third of total emissions, and Hannegan said that leading with renewable electricity will provide a sustainable alternative for other sources of greenhouse gas.
“The easiest way for us to do that as a society is to have clean electricity, and then use that clean electricity as the fuel to replace the oil, the natural gas, propane, all the other stuff that emits carbon,” Hannegan said. “So we’ve got to get our job done early so that everybody else’s job becomes a whole lot easier.”
Hannegan hopes that the clean energy plan that Holy Cross Energy is undertaking will serve as a template for other utility companies, and will provide a working example of how ambitious renewable energy goals can be both achievable and profitable. He said that the decision to shift originally came from listening to consumers’ demand for renewables, and that utility companies around the country should be listening and responding to the values of their own customers.
“I believe — and you see this from the evidence of utility commitments like these all around the country — that there’s no reason electric utilities can’t pivot to provide the clean energy that their consumers want,” Hannegan said. “I think the biggest thing that’s driving us forward is that our communities are speaking with one really loud voice and saying this is what we want, and to the extent that other communities want that they should raise their voices as well and work with their local providers to make sure that it happens.”
To learn more about Holy Cross Energy’s clean energy plan and initiatives, visit HolyCross.com/renewable-energy.
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