Integrated Resource Plan

Community meeting questions

Preguntas y respuestas en español

During the 2024 IRP engagement process, Platte River conducted presentations and engagement meetings across the four owner community groups with civic groups, appointed boards and elected councils. Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions from this engagement process. You can find a more complete list of the questions asked during these meetings and via email here. Platte River has edited the list for clarity and has removed redundant questions. The answers will provide further insight into the IRP process.

If you cannot find the answer to your question in those resources, we encourage you to attend our last public engagement meeting of the year this spring. Sign up here to receive communications about our IRP, including the date and time of the last engagement meeting as soon as those details become available.

The Platte River Board of Directors approved the Resource Diversification Policy in 2018, which directs Platte River’s leadership to proactively work toward a 100% noncarbon energy mix by 2030, provided the foundational pillars of system reliability, environmental responsibility and financial sustainability can be maintained. The policy also includes nine caveats that must be met, including expansion of transmission infrastructure, development and implementation of distributed energy resources and maturation of battery storage technology.

Modeling from our 2022 resource plan shows a path to an 88% noncarbon energy mix is possible by 2030. Current modeling for the 2024 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) confirms this forecast and we are confident we will provide 85%+ noncarbon energy in 2030.

Beyond 2030, Platte River and our owner communities (Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont, and Loveland, Colorado) will continue to work toward the goal of 100% noncarbon energy without sacrificing our three foundational pillars until the goal is met.

Rawhide Unit 1 will retire by 2030, 16 years before its planned retirement date. The Rawhide Energy Station has multiple generation resources that employees will need to maintain and support. Platte River is developing plans to smoothly transition employees to new roles after Unit 1 retires, as directed by Platte River’s Board Resolution No. 08-20: Responsible Transition for Rawhide Employees. Beginning in 2030, Unit 1 will undergo a lengthy decommissioning process.

Platte River has determined that the new generation needs to be operational by early 2028 to allow time to test and prove reliability before Rawhide coal Unit 1 retires. Construction and permitting for the new units are expected to take approximately four years. So, to meet critical deadlines Platte River needs to begin permitting in early 2024.

We will continue to use the existing combustion turbines during extreme weather and dark calms.

We need new dispatchable thermal, aeroderivative combustion turbines to complement renewable generation on a minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis. They will frequently start, stop, ramp up and ramp down as the output from wind and solar varies from instant to instant. We can illustrate this need with an example.

The following chart shows Platte River’s renewable generation and load on Oct. 1, 2023, measured every five minutes. The top black line shows a gradual increase in load while the green line shows total renewable generation. It can be seen that renewable generation changes very frequently. This chart shows renewable generation from wind resources with a maximum potential output of 225 MW and solar facilities with maximum capability of 52 MW. By 2030, Platte River will add another 300-400 MW of wind and about 250-350 MW of solar. This means, for 2030, the absolute level of the green chart will be higher but load and renewable generation patterns will be similarly variable. These variations will require new dispatchable, flexible and efficient aeroderivative combustion turbines to meet customer load even as solar and wind output fluctuates up and down.

Platte River’s existing combustion turbines cannot manage this type of wildly varying duty cycle, while aeroderivative turbines are designed for this purpose. Additionally, during dark calm periods, Platte River’s load could be as high as 600 – 700 MW. The existing 388 MW of combustion turbines along with about 70 MW of hydro are not enough to meet our customers’ future load during the dark calm period. Therefore, we need additional aeroderivative turbines during normal operation and during the dark calms.

Yes, Platte River investigated a broad range of new and emerging technologies. For our 2030 portfolio needs, we must rely on commercially proven and economical technologies. There are few known sources of commercially proven geothermal energy in our area and micro-nuclear technology is in the early development stage.

Typically, waste-to-energy plants are smaller. When they are economical, the industrial owners install them next to the existing processing facilities where waste energy is available. These plants must be located within the industrial unit, and are generally owned and operated by industry, not the utility. Platte River does not consider currently available waste-to-energy technologies commercially viable for Platte River.

As these technologies continue to improve and gain commercial acceptance, we will reconsider them for our future needs.

We are not aware of any large country that provides 100% renewable energy to its power grid on a 24/7 basis. Norway and Sweden can provide large amounts of electricity from renewable resources due to abundant hydroelectric energy. As most of the wind and solar equipment suppliers are global players, they are using their experiences from across the world to improve their technologies. When Platte River acquires solar, wind and storage technologies, we are taking advantage of the latest developments across the world.

Platte River is an active member of the Large Public Power Council and the American Public Power Association, where numerous member utilities have aggressive carbon-reduction goals. We regularly collaborate with these member utilities and discuss the challenges, opportunities and lessons learned from decarbonizing energy portfolios.

Storage is an important part of our portfolio. Two-hour storage does not fit well with our power supply portfolio. We prefer four-hour storage as it better complements wind and solar resources in our portfolio. Four-hour storage technology is commercially available, with thousands of megawatts already installed across the country.

Long-duration energy storage (LDES) is not commercially available as of now. Experts think it will likely become commercial in the next decade. LDES is the key enabler for 100% noncarbon supply. A few pilot projects using LDES technology have been announced. We expect the technology will be refined and costs will come down in coming years.

Platte River’s general strategy for new technologies is to educate, explore, pilot (if required) and then deploy when commercially viable. We are following this strategy for LDES In our recommended portfolio, we plan to pilot a 10 MW project by 2030.

In addition, there are many technologies in research and development, like gravity batteries, iron-air and flow batteries. Subterrain pressurized air uses existing compression and decompression technologies but requires a suitable geological formation to store a large amount of air under pressure. Platte River will continue to monitor the evolution of these technologies as part of our ongoing resource planning process.

Platte River is not yet testing or piloting non-lithium-ion batteries. However, we have visited manufacturing facilities that are working to develop commercially viable, long-duration storage batteries using iron-air technology and are currently in discussions with these manufacturers about timing, cost and potential deployment on our system.

In May 2023, Platte River reported to its Board of Directors the 10-year average wholesale rate forecast to achieve the resource transition plan. The rate projections were based on assumptions at that time and include the resource transition from coal to wind, solar, storage and dispatchable thermal capacity. Platte River forecasted increasing average wholesale rates, based on those assumptions, 5.0% (2024 – 2030) and 2.5% (2031 – 2033) per year. In the spring of 2024, rate projections will be updated to reflect IRP assumptions. Platte River’s board reviews and updates rates annually based on the most current information and assumptions and are subject to change. The wholesale rate represents a portion of utility costs consumers pay, so their rate increases will vary depending on which owner community’s distribution utility serves them.

We are developing our current IRP based on the best utility practices with advice and data provided by advisors and consultants who work across many markets. After we join the market, we will follow the specific rules of the market. For example, we are currently developing our resource plan based on our consultant’s advice to plan for 20% planning reserve margin. When we join the market, we will comply with the specific planning reserve margin prescribed by the market operator.

Many market transactions do not include information on the source of its emissions, so we consider “other purchases” as carbon. Low prices in the market may reflect a regional oversupply of renewables but we cannot know that for certain. Platte River market purchases during times of renewable oversupply do not increase how much noncarbon energy we can claim, but they do enable the resource owners to keep renewable output higher than they otherwise could.

Platte River will have to operate within the parameters of our air emissions permits, the Southwest Power Pool tariff and market protocols, and any mandated state regulations. We anticipate, based on increasing investment in renewable energy resources in the region, that we will see a decrease in the capacity factor (total annual hours of operation) of our thermal resources. This is due, in part, to the ability of market participants to draw on excess renewables across the market footprint when their own renewables are low. Conversely, market participants can sell excess renewable generation when needed by the market, instead of curtailing renewable resources. The rights to claim credit for renewable output do not change hands from these transactions, but everyone – consumers and the environment – are better off when market participants work together to maximize total renewable output.

A VPP is an aggregation of DERs that can be dispatched to support electric system reliability, market value and benefits for customers. Platte River includes in its resource plans DERs that can be operated as part of a VPP and is working to develop a significant VPP resource. We are also working closely with the owner communities’ utilities to ensure that the VPP can be operated to support reliability and other benefits for their distribution systems.

Platte River is developing targets for flexible DERs, such as flexible electric vehicle charging and distributed storage. We believe we can build a VPP with 73 MW of enrolled flexible DERs by 2030 (roughly 10% of current peak load) that could be dispatched to provide 33 MW (about 4.6% of current peak load) on a near daily basis. We will continue to refresh these estimates over time.

There are some potential limitations. First, most of this capacity does not exist yet; it is based on forecasted customer adoption of electric vehicles and distributed battery storage. Second, Platte River and the owner communities must develop a distributed energy resource management system and supporting systems to enable effective flexible DER managements. Third, it assumes large numbers of customers will be willing to participate and that VPP capabilities will be cost effective compared to other noncarbon resource options.

There are a variety of things home and business owners can do now and in the future.

If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and cost effectively as possible, consider upgrading the energy efficiency of your home or business. Consider electrifying your building—space heat, water heat and appliances—with new efficient technologies. Consider an electric vehicle for your next vehicle purchase. Efficiency Works offers information and support for each of these opportunities.

If you want to help Platte River and the owner communities decarbonize their electric systems, please stay tuned as we develop our VPP. While the concept of a VPP is simple – customers’ flexible DERs responding to the electric system’s needs to maintain reliable, cost-effective service – implementing is complex and requires new technology systems to be planned and implemented. To provide value to the electric system, the VPP must give electric system operators near real-time visibility and operational control over participating flexible DERs. This requires the ability to establish and maintain customer enrollment and reliable communications to flexible DERs. In addition, Platte River and the owner communities need to expand their capabilities to coordinate dispatch of the VPP with respect to the requirements of the distribution system, transmission system and the RTO. Planning for this work is nearing completion and bids will be sought from vendors in 2024. Once we select a vendor Platte River and the owner communities will begin implementing the systems and developing programs for customers to provide their flexible DERs. This will help us better align our increasing renewable supply with energy use as we approach our 2030 goal.

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