The gradual shift to renewables
Thanks to Allen Best for his fine article in the Aspen Times Weekly about Holy Cross Energy’s efforts with renewable energy. l do wish to clarify some of my comments on coal, as quoted by Allen.
Yes. coal will be a dominant fuel source for the near future due to its huge supply in Colorado and cheap cost. However, this cheap cost is made possible by the market Ignoring the external costs of coal. These costs are the unaccounted environmental costs of air pollution, i.e., sulfur dioxide and nitric acid emissions, mercury emissions, fine particulate emissions, and carbon dioxide emissions. Safety and health issues in the mines are also an unaccounted cost of coal. Black lung disease Is a horrible result of coal mine dust, and, in addition, a huge amount of water is used in the processing of coal.
It Is my hope that we can continue to developed alternate sources of energy to power our electric needs. Holy Cross is currently investigating many new ideas for more renewable energy, including coal mine methane recapture, small hydroelectric plants, wind projects and the purchase of renewable energy credits. We fully expect to comply with ” if not exceed ” the requirements of the voter-approved Amendment 37.
The Colorado Legislature has recently approved funds to build an experimental coal gasification plant in Colorado. It is a test plant to see if such technology will work at high altitude. This process will convert coal to gas and then burn the gas. It will be a significantly cleaner use of coal, and it will be more expensive. It will also include a carbon dioxide sequestering process.
The passage of Amendment 37 by Colorado voters is working to stimulate alternative energy sources and I believe was en eye-opener for many utility companies. In my seven years on the Holy Cross board and serving on several statewide utility boards, I have never seen such high interest in renewables. Renewable projects are now in high demand, expensive and hard to find. I’ve been told there is now a substantial waiting time to get new wind towers and equipment.
At a conference I attended last summer, I heard a prominent national utility executive state that we are living in the fossil fuel age, but that age will only last 20 to 30 more years. After that the renewable portions of our fuel supplies will be dominant. I believe we are now in that transition period and that transition is happening more quickly than anticipated.
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