Sign In   |   Join
News & Press: General Mining News

Xcel's plans bring renewed economic impact here

Wednesday, July 11, 2018  
Share |

Xcel's plans bring renewed economic impact here

 JUL 9, 2018

 

When Xcel Energy announced plans to partially close its coal-fired plant in Pueblo and increase its use of renewable energy, there were concerns about the economic impact the job losses here would have on the community. It turns out the overall economic impact may be positive, if a new study is to be believed.

Xcel plans to scale back operations at the Comanche power plant, which will result in the loss of about 80 jobs. Representatives from the utility company have said they expect those job losses to be absorbed mostly through retirements and other attrition over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the company plans to build and operate new wind and solar farms around the state, including several solar farms in Pueblo. According to a study by the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, that work will create hundreds of construction jobs within our community over the next five years.

Specifically, Xcel wants to contract with private developers to build three solar farms and two power storage/battery units near the Comanche plant, as well as a power transfer station and other improvements.

When the construction work is complete, the number of jobs associated with Xcel's increased emphasis on renewable energy will drop. There will be some full-time jobs maintaining the new energy facilities, but not as many as the coal-fired plant required.

Still, the university's study said the switchover will benefit Pueblo in other ways, including an estimated $21.9 million in taxes paid to local governments over the next 23 years.

The study projects other parts of the state also will benefit from Xcel's renewal energy projects, with an estimated 416 jobs a year if averaged out through 2040.

All of that is dependent on approval by the Public Utilities Commission, which could make a decision as early as September, following public hearings and regulatory review.

Black Hills Energy provides residential and commercial service to the Pueblo area and most of Xcel's customers are in the Denver area. However, Xcel's biggest retail customer in Colorado is the EVRAZ Pueblo steel mill.

Much of Xcel's fortunes are tied to the decision EVRAZ makes about whether to expand the mill here or not. If EVRAZ stays, then Xcel should be in pretty good shape for the foreseeable future. If EVRAZ doesn't expand its local operations, there's a chance it eventually would transfer some or all of its Pueblo business to other facilities elsewhere around the country. Which, it seems safe to assume, would put a crimp on Xcel's plans.

Xcel is taking a bold step by turning to renewable sources to meet more of its energy needs. It's a gamble that we have to hope is successful, for the sake of Pueblo's economic development.

Note to readers

Editorials are the opinions of The Pueblo Chieftain as decided by the newspaper's editorial board. Current members of the board are Brad Slater, general manager; Blake Fontenay, editorial page editor; Steve Henson, editor; and Tom McAvoy, editorial research director.


Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal