Local residents and business owners served by the Platte River Power Authority, (PRPA) have the opportunity to take part in focus group sessions to discuss the “energy portfolio options,” a part of the PRPA’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
PRPA will host a focus group session in Estes Park on March 5, from 6-8 p.m. in the Ballroom/ Salon at the Ridgeline Hotel, located at 101 S. St. Vrain Ave.
“This is a very critical juncture in our history, and it’s pretty important to us,” Roalstad said of this IRP, adding that decisions made now could affect if PRPA continues with fossil-based fuel sources or not.
The PRPA is a non-profit wholesale electric generation and transmission provider to “owner” communities of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont.
An IRP is usually produced once every five years, and lines out how electricity generated and delivered to communities served by PRPA will be performed, according to the press release.
“It features sophisticated modeling of unique resources, available technologies and specific constraints, all studied by industry experts using the best practices to develop Platte River’s resource mix options for the future,” the press release reads.
The IRP sessions in March will include members of the public sitting together discussing these options on potential energy mixes, and for PRPA and partners to take input, he said. These meetings will be a chance for the public to say what they like and do not like about proposals about energy from PRPA.
“This is a big deal for us, we’re potentially looking at the way we will make electricity or not,” Steve Roalstad of the PRPA, said.
For many years, the IRP was an easy process to go through, according to Roalstad. In years past, the process was to make electricity from fossil fuels and that was the plan.
However, the utility industry is currently going through what Roalstad calls a “generational shift” on how electricity is made and distributed.
A major interest of the public and different groups is placed on “cleaner energy,” those which are not fossil-based, Roalstad said.
PRPA operates on three pillars: system reliability, environmental responsibility and financial sustainability, Mayor Todd Jirsa, a representative of Estes Park to the PRPA board, said.
While recently there had been a focus on the environmental responsibility, Jirsa said. This could include the reduction, “or closure” of the coal units which PRPA are involved in.
“But we have to keep in mind that there are those two other pillars which are equally important, the system reliability and financial sustainability,” Jirsa said.
The coal facilities could be shut down now, however, the financial sustainability and system reliability would not be possible.
“It’s really that balance, we really need to talk to our customers about that balance between the 2030 goal and those three pillars,” Jirsa said.
The 2030 goal is still very important to the board, Jirsa said.
“Everybody likes to focus on the noncarbon energy, but there are lots of moving parts to this that need to come together if we’re going to reach that 2030 goal,” Jirsa said.
The 2030 goal also has a “few provisos” that needed to happen to reach that goal, and those have yet to be met, Jirsa said.
“For instance, the battery storage technology has to come a long way, for the goal that is an important piece of reaching that goal,” Jirsa said, adding that the PRPA would need to join a regional transmission market would also be necessary.
For the upcoming focus group, discussion engagement is a major concern.
“We really, really want to engage the customers,” Roalstad said. “That’s why we’ve opened the doors all the way down to residential and business customers.”
Roalstad said the PRPA has never opened up like this on input before. Two rounds of community meetings have been held by the PRPA to take input.
For Estes Park, Roalstad said PRPA wanted to draw in a good cross-section of the community to the meeting on March 5.
“Not only do we want residential customers, but also want to invite senior citizens, young families and those in the workforce in to speak on what they think,” Roalstad said.
The focus groups will be facilitated by Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation (CPD), and will report findings to the PRPA leadership, according to a Feb. 13 press release.
“With guidance from the CPD, attendees will have the opportunity to review resource plan options, engage with fellow residents, ask questions and give us their opinions regarding the energy future of northern Colorado,” Frisbie said.
Included in the focus group discussions will be a “brief” introduction from the PRPA and conversations led by the CPD about the future resource mix, according to the release.
“Attendees will receive descriptions of four resource mix options that incorporate forecasted capital, operational, fuel and environmental (carbon tax and social cost of carbon) costs,” the release states. “Participants will be encouraged to offer opinions regarding which energy mix Platte River should pursue.”
Data gathered at these discussions will be compiled by the CPD and a report will be made to the PRPA, which will be a tool used by the PRPA board about IRP decisions, according to the release.
The IRP is being prepared and submitted a year early as a response from direction by the Platte River Board of Directors to work toward “100% noncarbon energy mix by 2030,” according to the release.
Of the energy delivered to communities by PRPA, approximately 30% comes from noncarbon sources such as solar, wind and hydropower, according to the press release.
“By 2021, noncarbon energy will increase to 50% with the addition of 225 MW of new wind capacity and 22 MW of new solar (plus 2 MWh battery storage),” the press release states. “Additionally, Platte River is evaluating bids to add up to 150 MW of solar by 2023, potentially raising the share of noncarbon energy delivered to the owner communities to 60%.”
Those interested in attending the March 5 session in Estes Park can RSVP by calling 970-229-5657, or online at: https://cpd.colostate.edu/events/platte-river-power-community-focus-groups/.
More information about PRPA can be found at: https://www.prpa.org/irp/.