Zero net carbon energy achievable

Platte River Power Authority study discloses feasibility of carbon neutral power

FORT COLLINS, Colo., December 7, 2017– The Platte River Power Authority Board of Directors and public today learned a zero net carbon (ZNC) energy portfolio for Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland can be achieved by 2030.

“Platte River is a statewide leader in the use of carbon-free energy resources with more than 30 percent of the energy we provide to our owner municipalities coming from the sun, wind and hydro generation – and we provide it at the lowest wholesale rates in Colorado,” noted Jason Frisbie, CEO of Platte River Power Authority. “Results from this study are a solid first step toward developing the next generation’s energy portfolio for the northern Front Range.”

Frisbie explained the Platte River’s leaders had two primary objectives concerning the modeling effort: 1) the lowest cost generating model that would result in carbon neutrality and; 2) system reliability be maintained at currently high levels.

During a community meeting sponsored by Platte River, participants received a briefing on the ZNC study from Pace Global LLC, a Siemens, Inc. business, a respected industry leader in strategic business consulting for electric utilities. Pace produced the study assuming the need for more renewable energy resources, the retirement of all coal-fired generating resources by 2030 while retaining combustion turbines, retention of existing hydro power positions and the potential need for new natural gas resources.

The Pace study concludes a zero net carbon energy portfolio for Platte River would require significantly more renewable generating capacity than what Platte River calls for in its current, long-range Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Modeling also considers the need for firming capacity that would be used to integrate intermittent renewable energy onto the grid, provide backup for any load loss and maintain needed reserve margins.

Under the least-cost model, Platte River would serve approximately 75 percent of its customer load with renewable energy resources and 25 percent with natural gas-fired resources. Platte River would offset the fossil-fuel generated electricity by selling excess renewable energy to the market on an annualized basis, thereby reaching carbon neutrality.

To achieve a zero net carbon energy portfolio, Pace estimated the need for 600 megawatts (MW) of new solar, 350 MW of wind and 286 MW of natural gas combined cycle generating capacity be placed on Platte River’s system by 2030, the year when the coal-fired Rawhide Unit 1 would be retired. Lithium ion battery storage was considered by Pace but determined to be less cost effective, with less capacity than traditional resources at this point in time.

“We estimate Platte River’s energy production costs to achieve a zero net carbon portfolio would be approximately 20 percent higher in 2030 than they would be under current forecasts within Platte River’s current IRP,” said Gary Vicinus, a managing director for Pace Global.

Although risks to system reliability are largely addressed through the addition of natural gasfired generating capacity, market access and price risks may rise as more utilities build renewables and sell excess power into the marketplace. Vicinus noted that Platte River may need to sell renewable energy into the market at lower rates than anticipated, for example, to meet the requirement of achieving zero net carbon emissions throughout a given year.

The Pace study indicates that participation in a regional transmission organization (RTO) could reduce costs of achieving carbon neutrality. Additional cost and risk mitigation includes the flexibility to use battery storage should technologies advance to make it more cost effective, and the continued use of Platte River’s existing combustion turbines to meet intermittent load needs.

Following the presentation, Frisbie announced the Platte River Board of Directors supported the purchase of 150 megawatts of new wind power capacity. In early 2017, Platte River requested proposals for 50 megawatts of new capacity and received several favorable proposals.

“If we move forward with 150 megawatts of new wind, we will have a generating portfolio that is nearly 48 percent carbon-free,” Frisbie said. “Even though we would be years ahead of the current IRP, we will not be done. We will continue to look for opportunities to provide added
value to our owner municipalities.”

The ZNC modeling effort emerged from a Platte River initiative to study customized resource plans (CRP), providing cost and feasibility concerning a range of energy resource options available to meet individual community goals. In July, the Platte River Board approved a study of even higher levels of non-carbon resources, with focus toward modeling a 100 percent noncarbon resource scenario for all four municipalities. With both the CRP and ZNC modeling efforts, Platte River will develop a full range of options for consideration by its owner communities.


Platte River Power Authority is a not-for-profit wholesale electricity generation and transmission provider that delivers safe, reliable, environmentally responsible and competitively priced energy and services to its owner communities of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland, Colorado for delivery to their utility customers.

Siemens Corporation Siemens Corporation is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global powerhouse focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of systems for power generation and transmission as well as medical diagnosis.

With approximately 372,000 employees in 190 countries, Siemens reported worldwide revenue
of $92.0 billion in fiscal 2017. Siemens in the USA reported revenue of $23.3 billion, including
$5.0 billion in exports, and employs approximately 50,000 people throughout all 50 states and
Puerto Rico.

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