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All about power

Dear Editor:

I am writing to respond to recent questions regarding the power outages on Saturday, March 14, in the West End and then in the entire city of Aspen.

One letter writer erroneously blames the city of Aspen Electric Utility for both outages and then suggests Holy Cross be put in charge of providing electricity for Aspen. In a brief response, Aspen Electric was responsible for only one of the outages and provides cheaper electricity with more renewable energy than Holy Cross.

To first address the outages and causes: The first outage was on the Aspen Electric system and occurred at a splice vault located behind the post office. The affected service area was the West End and lasted one hour. The second outage occurred later in the evening at the Aspen Substation, operated by Holy Cross. This outage affected the entire Aspen municipal service area and also lasted one hour, due to a failure of an arrestor likely due to weather conditions or animals.

The average Aspen Electric customer experiences power outages 1.4 times per year at an average of about 104 minutes. The most reliable, available data from one of the largest utilities within 1,000 miles of Aspen showed their customers averaged 2 outages per year at an average of 240 minutes. What makes Aspen customers experience fewer outages? Our entire electric system is underground. The frequency of failure for underground systems is lower than for overhead systems that can suffer tree damage during winter storms. The Holy Cross power system contains overhead power lines.

To address cost and efficiency: The Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities shows that the average Holy Cross customer pays 38.8 percent more for the same amount of electricity as Aspen Electric customers. (Aspen Electric customers paid the fourth lowest of all 50 utilities surveyed in the state!) In addition, Aspen Electric’s energy portfolio is comprised of 77 percent non-carbon sources such as wind and hydropower without charging more to its customers for that renewable energy. Aspen also uses the highest percentage of renewable energy of any utility in Colorado.

The city of Aspen benefits from having a municipal-provided electric utility. Although Aspen’s electric rates are significantly lower than the statewide average, the “profit” from the operations provides $425,000 per year to the city’s general fund. In addition, approximately $200,000 of the electric rates goes towards financing streetlights throughout the city, including areas serviced by Holy Cross. Aspen Electric also provides more than $80,000 worth of energy to community facilities, such as the Ice Garden, without charge.

Aspen is truly lucky to have the opportunity to make its own decisions about its power portfolio and reliability standards ” all while keeping rates lower than Holy Cross or other utilities in the state. If you want to know more about Aspen Electric, call 920-5148.

Phil Overeynder

public works director

city of Aspen


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