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Paula NoonanPaula NoonanSeptember 8, 20174min628

A recent poll conducted by Chris Keating of Keating Research, a polling and survey firm that consults primarily for Democrats including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, reveals that Colorado’s political environment parallels the nation’s, but preferences on energy issues are distinctly Coloradan.  The results come from 605 active voters, with a margin of error at 4 percent, plus or minus.

As with the country as a whole, Coloradans hold President Donald Trump at 40% favorable to 58% unfavorable, and give Gov. John Hickenlooper a 60% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating.  Numbers are more contrasting at the Very Unfavorable level, with 51% Very Unfavorable for Trump and 19% Very Unfavorable for Hickenlooper.

Since Keating works mostly for the left side of the aisle, it’s important to look at his call list.  He called 48% men and 52% women.  His age range was 18-24 at 10% up to 70+ at 15%.  Voters with children age 18 or younger comprised 27% of the sample and the split by party affiliation was 25% Democrat, 26% Republican, and 45% Independent. Colorado’s active voter registration actually divides almost equally at 32% Dem to 32% GOP to 36% Unaffiliated.

Happily, the survey shows that 64% of Coloradans think the state is headed in the “right direction” with 28% favoring the down side.

The poll’s main purpose was to explore voter commitment to four energy types as sources for development: coal, wind, solar and natural gas.  It sought especially to pinpoint voters’ views on what energy sources should increase or decrease in use.  Coloradans now have a dim view of coal, with 57% of respondents saying its use should decrease and only 18% choosing to increase its use.  Wind (+76%) and especially solar (+84%) showed the most support for increased use, with natural gas at +36%.

The survey suggests that Coloradans from both political parties want public utilities to collaborate on reducing carbon emissions: 89% agree/11% disagree.  Voters want the state to work with utilities to increase the use of clean renewable energy at 95% agree/5% disagree.  Almost 50% of voters support increasing the state’s 30% renewable energy standard to over 50%.  Most Coloradans (83%) want to take control of their energy future without waiting for the federal government to jump in.

The polling numbers indicate that Xcel’s recent decisions to add more renewable energy to its portfolio makes sense.  Closing coal plants is apparently generally acceptable to Coloradans.

Clearly, renewable solar and wind power are popular. Natural gas is holding its own despite opposition to drilling from some cities along the northern Front Range.

These results have implications for the 2018 governor and legislator races on both Democratic and Republican sides.  Democratic candidates can feel comfortable promoting more renewables.  The effect of fracking vs. anti-fracking positions on voter preference is less clear.

Republicans face a different picture in the primaries and general election.  Anti-climate change Republicans may be in sync with a majority in their party during the primary season.  But that position is deeply out of sync with a majority of voters who will cast ballots in the general election.

One other interesting set of data.  While 45% of the polled population identified as independent voters, only 25% viewed themselves as moderates.  These individuals were outnumbered by liberals at 34% and conservatives at 38%. It appears there’s a muddy middle spectrum of voters, a minority, who support reduced-carbon energy policy.  They will make a difference in how the general election turns out.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 30, 20175min422

State Republicans are concerned with a plan floated by Xcel Energy on Tuesday that would retire two coal-fired generation units in Pueblo, while adding renewable energy.

Xcel filed a request supported by 14 groups asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to approve a plan that would lead to $2.5 billion in clean energy investments in rural Colorado, according to a news release announcing the proposal.

The so-called “Colorado Energy Plan” would promote a “widely supported electricity generating portfolio” to augment Xcel’s current plans.

The utility promised not to increase the cost of energy to its customers. In the last four years, the average electric bill for Xcel Energy’s Colorado residential customers decreased by 6 percent. The proposal would keep Colorado electricity costs for consumers “low and predictable,” Xcel said in the news release.

Xcel plans a request for proposal targeting a mix of utility and independent power producers, with the utility having a targeted investment of 50 percent of the renewable generation.

Portfolio estimates are up to 1,000 megawatts of wind, up to 700 megawatts of solar, and up to 700 megawatts of natural gas.

The utility would file a recommended portfolio with the Public Utilities Commission in the first quarter of 2018; a final decision on the recommended portfolio is expected in the summer of 2018.

“We have a responsibility to meet our customers’ energy needs. Our customers expect us to provide low-cost power and increase the use of cleaner energy,” said David Eves, president of Xcel Energy in Colorado. “As the state’s largest utility, it is important to us that we also support rural areas in Colorado, and this proposal’s investment will accomplish this goal.”

Eves said the proposal could increase renewable energy to 55 percent by 2026, while saving customers money and reducing pollution. Carbon emission could be reduced by up to 60 percent by 2026 over 2005 levels, Xcel said.

Xcel’s contribution of renewables currently stands at around 29 percent.

Colorado has a renewable energy standard of 30 percent by 2020, which Xcel has repeatedly said it is on track to surpass. At least two Democratic gubernatorial candidates have proposed a 100 percent renewable energy standard of 100 percent by 2040.

The two coal-fired generation units that would be retired are located at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, reminded Xcel that Republicans rejected a similar proposal in the legislature.

“Renewable energy providers in Colorado already profit from a wide variety of special preferences and handouts, including some of the highest renewable energy mandates in the country, but apparently that’s not enough for one utility, which is pulling a bit of a fast one by going to the PUC for something it couldn’t get passed through the legislature last session,” Sonnenberg said in a statement.

“This proposal didn’t fly at the statehouse because Republicans don’t believe it’s in the interest of Colorado energy consumers to shut down our most affordable and dependable power plants, while subsidizing expansion of unreliable, not-ready-for-primetime alternatives. We keep hearing that renewable energy has finally come of age and can compete with traditional power providers on a level playing field, yet when push comes to shove, they’re always coming back for more handouts and special preferences, which come at ratepayer or taxpayer expense.”

Xcel was joined by a diverse coalition in announcing the proposal, including pro-renewable energy groups.

“Today’s filing starts a conversation about how Colorado will transition to the clean energy economy of tomorrow,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel for Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder-based conservation group dedicated to clean energy.

Supporters called the proposal an “historic opportunity to take advantage of renewable-generated electricity… at historically low prices, while investing in good-paying jobs and cleaner air.”

“If approved, the commission will have an opportunity to evaluate transitioning our power production away from coal and toward less expensive clean renewable resources,” Overturf said. “Taking advantage of these low cost options now would reduce customers’ bills, while improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.”