By:Matt Edgar Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables
It’s About Energy Balance
David Eves is president and CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), an Xcel Energy company. Xcel offers a comprehensive portfolio of energy-related products and services to 3.4 million electricity customers and 1.9 million natural gas customers.
After the Roundtable, I interviewed Eves because I was interested in spending time with a man who was the head of a company whose revenue generation model seemed diametrically opposed to conservation — being that fossil fuels serve as the business’s primary means of energy production, and the company has a substantial investment in coal and natural gas plants. After discussing PSCo’s business model, vision, and conservation efforts, I discovered that conservation, energy production, and business could be aligned.
I asked Eves, from the outset, whether or not Xcel was on board with energy conservation efforts. He said that the company is committed “to provide safe, reliable, economical energy for customers,” and went on to touch on the firm’s strategy of being “environmental leaders.” Examples of Xcel successfully integrating renewable energy and conservation into its business model, according to Eves, can be seen in its wind energy business. They are, in fact, the leading wind-energy utility provider in the country for five years running, and are the fifth largest solar provider, with plans to grow that division. “Incorporating wind and solar (or hybrid) with our traditional supplies of coal and natural gas is part of what we need to do to meet our customer needs…it’s about balance,” said Eves.
A core focus of the Roundtable was where utilities are headed, in terms of conservation and production design. Eves explained his vision of the industry, “In the next ten-to-twenty years, we will continue to increase the amount of conservation, and increase the number and type(s) of renewables. A lot of how far and fast we go will depend on a lot of what we saw today (at the Roundtable)…public policy. The roadblock isn’t with the public policy, it’s the lack of policy; it’s evolving.”
Other states have not been as proactive as Colorado in the policy arena. Although a microcosm, “The governor has led the way by upping the renewable energy standards. We’ve increased the amount of conservation. We’re looking at all our coal plants and trying to convert them. That’s a really good mix, and that’s an example of (successful) public policy and what can be done,” said Eves.
Xcel is currently looking at shuttering up to five coal plants as part of its eight year plan, and retrofitting others. The company will be shutting down its Cameo Power Plant in Mesa County by the end of the year. Also slated for closing by year-end 2015, are two units at the coal-fired Arapahoe Station. Also being evaluated is Valmont Station in Boulder, along with other plants affecting the eastern plains and western slope. All of this is part of the Clean Air-Clean Jobs act, signed into law by Governor Bill Ritter in April, 2010, and will require as much as a two billion dollar investment on behalf of Xcel.
Eves explained that, “Clean Air-Clean Jobs is driven in conjunction with agriculture, business, and government. The regulations come in waves, defining particulate matter, coal ash, and carbon dioxide.” Basically, the act regulates the infrastructure and we have to decide whether to invest in upgrades or just buy all new equipment. “So that’s what we’re trying to do... look way ahead. In some situations, it just makes more sense to shut the equipment down.”