Paul Andersen: Holy Cross Energy is leading the way

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

For the past five years, my electric bills from Holy Cross Energy have been in the negative. The bottom line on every bill has shown a credit, making my household an energy producer instead of a consumer.

My family made the decision to invest in solar panels through a solar collective that put up a photovoltaic array at the Rifle Airport. The goal was to make our home carbon neutral in electricity — and it did.

We invested because we care about climate change and want to live according to our values. Just knowing that our dedicated panels have been achieving carbon savings — and making our home more sustainable — is affirmation of a good investment for the future.

Recently, Holy Cross announced that we’re losing our panels. The solar collective we bought into is divesting its array and selling it to Holy Cross. A check from Holy Cross will cover our investment, and a carbon-free energy option will ensure that the electricity we use remains sustainable.

Two weeks ago, Holy Cross announced that it will go carbon free in a decade. The year 2030 will be the turning point thanks, in part, to the solar panels we once owned and are happily conveying to the best utility we could ever hope to co-own.

Holy Cross is a co-operative, meaning it is owned by its service members. My household receives a check every year with our share of the utility’s distribution. That money won’t buy a new Tesla, but it gives us a financial stake in this progressive, right-thinking utility.

Climate change is an obvious reason to cut carbon, an effort originating, not from Washington, D.C., but from the grassroots. Holy Cross Energy is taking the lead by acknowledging climate science and acting to curb carbon on a significant scale. As a customer/owner, we believe that’s the right thing to do for this and for every community on the planet.

So, how does Holy Cross go carbon neutral? The magic phrase is “distributed energy resources.” By spreading energy production with renewables like wind, rooftop solar, home storage batteries and regional solar arrays, the demand for carbon-based fuels drops. So does road construction and drilling for fossil fuels, making for a more ecological and resilient grid.

Factor in pacts with cooperating neighboring utilities and with energy producers that share carbon-free values and have access to sustainable energy production, and the monolithic coal/gas-fired generating plant is a thing of the past.

Another way of diversifying production is through “Residential Conservation Power Plants.” As EcoMotion, an environmental newsletter from Southern California reports, “Instead of building conventional power plants, invest in efficiency in x number of homes and, in aggregate, offset the need for the power plant.”

Utilities must have capacity to provide for peak demand. But if that demand can be reduced with “negawatt” efficiencies and distributed energy resources, construction of costly and polluting generating plants can be deferred.

Hydroelectric power is another piece of the puzzle through “pumped-storage” hydro systems that store energy. Water is pumped uphill into a high reservoir during low-demand periods when the grid underused. The water is stored until peak demand when it flows downhill to make electricity to meet demand.

An example is at Twin Lakes where the Forebay Reservoir, several hundred feet above the lakes, is pumped full at low grid demand. Water is then released back into the lakes through the Twin Lakes hydro plant at high demand.

One energy-savings measure slipping through the cracks is basic home management, like the conscious act of turning off unnecessary lights and managing day-to-day appliances. Unfortunately, homeownership doesn’t come with a manual.

Most home energy consumption reflects the unconscious habits of the people who live in them. Until Smart Homes become the norm, energy waste will perpetuate as a confounding American entitlement to resource profligacy.

If one cares about the future, as if our grandchildren matter, then one cares about climate change. Those who care make conscious adjustments to live as efficiently as America’s pioneering forebears did by embracing frugality as a necessity. That necessity is upon us today, and Holy Cross is taking the lead.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at


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