Holy Cross Energy unveils plan to get to 100 percent renewable, clean sources by 2030
Utility is also working on ways to make its current power grid more resilient from weather, wildfire
Holy Cross Energy’s renewable energy efforts are moving faster than even utility officials had planned. That means it’s time for a more ambitious goal.
Holy Cross in 2018 announced the “Seventy70Thirty” plan. The plan’s intent was to source at least 70% of its power supply from clean and renewable sources by 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70% from 2014. That goal was to be met with no increases in power supply costs.
In a Monday virtual announcement, Holy Cross CEO Bryan Hannegan said the utility was on schedule to exceed those goals.
That progress led to Monday’s announcement of Holy Cross’s new “100X30” project, a new goal for the utility to receive 100% of its power from clean and renewable resources by 2030.
In addition to power sourcing, Hannegan said Holy Cross is also working on ways to make its current power grid more resilient from weather, wildfire and other potential service interrupters.
Dave Munk, the chairman of the Holy Cross board of directors, said the new goal is a source of both excitement and pride, noting that customers have long been calling for greater action regarding clean and renewable energy, even as Holy Cross has sometimes exceeded state-mandated goals on that front.
Munk added that Holy Cross’s pursuit of its clean energy goals also carries a board mandate of safety and affordability. He added that Holy Cross has kept rates flat since 2018, and expects to keep rates stable through at least 2021.
Lots of work ahead
What will it take to hit that ambitious goal?
Holy Cross will include solar and wind energy, as well as the utility’s efforts to generate power from captured methane from abandoned mine sites.
Hannegan said members will also play a role with demand-management tactics. Holy Cross has already equipped six members’ homes with Tesla Powerwall battery packs. Those packs will store energy from rooftop solar systems if they produce more power than a home or business needs during daytime hours from at-home batteries and larger storage facilities.
Responding to a submitted question, Hannegan said until the utility meets its 100% goal, members can opt into the purchase of power from renewable sources for their own homes or businesses.
Hannegan added that the plan will require working on agreements between states for sustainable electric grid operations. For instance, if the wind isn’t blowing at one wind facility, it’s probably windy enough elsewhere for turbine blades to turn.
Further complicating the plan is rapidly-growing demand for electricity.
Holy Cross Vice President of Power Supply and Programs Steve Beuning in an email acknowledged the growing demand.
Buening wrote that technology is allowing existing electricity supplies to be used more efficiently.
In the case of electric vehicles, Beuning noted that many vehicle owners top up their batteries each evening. Data shows that takes only about 20% of the time those vehicles are connected to the grid. Holy Cross offers free vehicle chargers in exchange for allowing the utility to use those grid-connected batteries for storage.
Beuning added that there are “some cases where the existing wires or transformers may need an upgrade.” Those will be upgraded on a schedule, he wrote.
Praise from the governor
After welcoming Colorado’s first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Jared Polis joined the Holy Cross call, and praised the utility’s management and membership for the new plan.
Polis said that when he launched his campaign for governor, he supported an idea of having the state 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2040.
“At the time my ideas were bold — but apparently not bold enough,” Polis said.
Holy Cross has “raised the bar” for clean energy action, Polis said, adding that the utility is showing the rest of the state that more can be done, better and faster than first envisioned.
“I congratulate (Holy Cross),” Polis said. “You’re bringing the future to the present.”
About Holy Cross Energy
What it is: A member-owned electric cooperative.
Current membership: More than 44,000
Operating area: Portions of Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Mesa and Gunnison counties.