Utilities seeks citizen help in Westside meeting

       Citizens are using more and more electric power, so it stands to reason their ideas are being sought as Colorado Springs Utilities tries to decide how to handle the increasing load.
       The official statement for this purpose is the Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP). Utilities documents describe this federally required document as a “long-term strategic plan, combining technical analysis and public participation to ensure customers have reliable electricity at a reasonable cost.”
       The second in a public three-meeting series on the plan's update is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Conservation and Environmental Center (informally known as the xeriscape building) at 2855 Mesa Road at 5:30 p.m.
       “All the options are on the table,” said Rachel Beck of Utilities. “We plan to take public input, run ideas through models to figure out costs, then figure out what we'll do.”
       Utilities has decided an update is needed in '07, even though the current plan is only three years old. “Things have changed since '04,” Beck said. “The load forecast has increased significantly. There are more applicances, and people are adding air conditioning, computers and cell phones [which need electricity to be recharged] - all these things add up.”
       The third and last public EIRP meeting will be March 22. Utilities' goal is to have a recommended update for City Council (sitting as the Utilities Board) by the end of March, Beck said.
       The Feb. 20 meeting will include stations that show the current situation in terms of supply and demand, demand-side management (DSM - in which incentives are used to reduce energy-draining usage spikes at certain times of the day) and renewable energy, and supply-side options and how Springs Utilities is interconnected with other systems
       As an example of interconnectivity, Beck said, “There might be a wind farm out on the plains, but we can't use that energy if we don't have transmission lines to get the power from there to here.”
       She said that at the first meeting in January, citizen suggestions included increased DSM efforts, greater hydroelectric efficiency, expansion of renewable sources, use of nuclear energy and proposals to limit carbon use (because of a perceived potential for human-caused global warming).
       Other changes triggering the EIRP update this year (as listed in a Utilities document) include:
  • Higher than anticipated wind costs.
  • Customer cost concerns.
  • Amendment 37's renewable-energy requirements (which could be broadened if a bill in the Colorado Legislature passes).
  • Increasing reliance on gas-fired generation and gas market volatility.
           Currently, the chief source of city electric power is coal (48 percent).
           For more information, call 668-3848.

    Westside Pioneer article