Let’s shut down this dirty, inefficient coal-fired power plant now


By David Takahashi

The Marshall and now NCAR fires are a clear indication that wildfire season is year round and the fires will be raging in our front yard and no longer “out there” where no one is supposed to build. Global warming is a magnifying glass that increases the frequency and intensity of climatic events. Do we agree that our world is becoming more and more inhospitable?

Science tells us that the burning of fossil fuels since the advent of the industrial revolution has resulted in the unforeseen warming of our atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect. We’ve added heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions faster than nature can neutralize them. This increase in concentration has an impact on our overall temperature. We managed to overwhelm a system that provided an average temperature conducive to life as we know it.

David Takahashi

In March 2022, the International Energy Agency said that the greatest amount of greenhouse gases on record was introduced in 2021. The report states that: Coal accounted for more than 40% of global growth in global CO2 emissions, now at a record high; CO2 emissions from natural gas have also rebounded well above 2019 levels. The largest greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States come from the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transport.

Our electric utility built a coal-fired plant in 2010, expecting it to operate until 2070. Comanche Unit 3 at Xcel Energy’s coal-fired plant in Pueblo was a power plant in the state-of-the-art coal that has experienced construction cost overruns. . Plagued by repairs, the latest taking the plant out of service for most of 2020, the plant will now close by 2035, if not sooner. The plant has been out of service for 25% of its lifetime. The cost of the June 2020 incident was $20.4 million and Xcel had to purchase $9.5 million in replacement power. Lost production has not been missed, and its continued use is causing further environmental havoc, which makes me wonder why it has not been shut down.

A sunk cost is a cost that has already occurred and cannot be recovered in any way. The flawed sunk cost reasoning states that new investments or commitments are justified because the resources invested will otherwise be wasted. This situation is often known as “throwing good money after bad”. Here is an example:

A company spends $5 million to build an airplane. Prior to completion, managers realize there is no demand for the aircraft. The aviation industry has evolved and airlines require different types of aircraft. The company has a choice: complete the aircraft for an additional $1 million or build the much-requested new aircraft for $4 million. The $5 million already spent on the old plane is a sunk cost in this scenario. This shouldn’t affect the decision, and the only relevant price is $4 million.

According to a Colorado Public Utilities Commission report, the plant’s cost of electricity – $66.25 for each megawatt hour (MWh) – was 45% higher than expected, and annual operating expenses were $34. $8 million per year, were 44% higher. provided that. Additionally, the average cost of wind projects tendered in Xcel’s 2017 tender was $19.30 per MWh.

“In fact, in September and December 2020, having Pueblo 3 offline saved customers money, increasing the prospect of using the unit for the month – or specific operations in season.” — Extract from the PUC report

There is a story in the Midrash of an old man observed planting a fig tree. When asked if he expected to live long enough to consume the fruits of his labor, he replied, “I was born into a flourishing world of ready pleasures. My ancestors planted for me, and now I plant for my children…” Our understanding of the bad investment in a coal-fired power station is to plant a tree bearing the bitter fruit of an inhospitable climate for our children. Let’s shut down an expensive, heavily polluting, underperforming factory and call it the bad sunk investment that it is.

David Takahashi is a Boulder resident active in the area of ​​intergenerational equity. He can be reached at [email protected]


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