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Holy Cross Energy working on a more sustainable future

Utility plans to get 70% of its electricity from renewable or clean sources by 2030

Holy Cross Energy plans to buy 70% of its electricity from wind, solar and "clean" sources by 2030.
AP file
What’s Seventy70Thirty? By 2030, Holy Cross Energy intends to:
  • Use clean and renewable sources to provide at least 70% of its power.
  • Reduce by 70% from 2014 levels the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its power supply.
  • The intent is to accomplish those goals with no increase in the cost of electricity.

VAIL — The present may be uncertain right now, but the CEO of Holy Cross Energy believes the future is electric.

Holy Cross CEO Bryan Hannegan talked to council members during a virtual meeting Tuesday of the Vail Town Council, during which participants all logged in from different locations.

Hannegan, who took over leadership of the utility in 2017, said the traditional “three legs” of electric utilities — reliable, safe and affordable power — need a fourth leg: sustainability.

To that end, Holy Cross has developed what it calls its “Seventy70Thirty” plan. That plan includes a greater commitment to renewable and clean energy sources, along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Hannegan said the utility — which buys its power from other suppliers — is making strides toward those goals.

In 2019, the utility obtained 41% of its power supply from clean and renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and clean sources including recovering methane gas from abandoned coal mines. The utility’s renewable energy sources accounted for only 25% or so of its power just a few years ago, Hannagan said.

Keeping energy cost-efficient

In addition to moving toward more renewable and clean sources of electricity, Hannegan said the utility is committed to keeping rates down.

Plans for the future include encouraging customers who install rooftop solar systems. Energy storage options for those systems are also in the planning stages.

Holy Cross is also looking toward encouraging its electric customers to transition to electric vehicles. Holy Cross will cover the cost of up to two “level 2” car chargers for its residential customers, and will provide assistance to have those chargers installed.

Building a new grid

Home solar reflects an evolution of the electric grid to create a more “resilient” network, Hannegan said.

That’s important in Vail, since that town is essentially on the end of a transmission line.

Holy Cross is working to connect to an Xcel Energy line at Gilman, and is currently doing National Environmental Policy Act work to cross federal land for that plan. That work isn’t certain, though, since some Minturn residents have opposed the project.

If the project isn’t completed, Hannegan said Vail and Holy Cross need to work together to bring more clean energy into the town itself.

Hannegan said the utility is also working with Vail Transit and Eagle County’s ECO Transit system on charging systems for full-electric buses.

Talking to the council about storage — currently one of the major hurdles to using more solar or wind-generated electricity, Hannegan said there’s a future possibility of using wind and solar to heat large tanks of fluid. Those tanks could be used as an alternative to gas boilers used to heat streets and other uses.

Ultimately, Hannegan said, Holy Cross wants to find a way to restart an electric grid using nothing but renewable sources.

“We think it’s possible — it would be a big breakthrough,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.


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