Holy Cross Energy: We won’t sacrifice reliability for the sake of sustainability

Bryan Hannegan
Special to the Daily

It’s often been said that “as California goes, so goes the nation.” As one of the first states in the country to embrace an aggressive clean energy goal, California’s actions have inspired much of the rest of the nation (including our own state of Colorado) to act similarly. As Holy Cross Energy continues our own transition towards a clean energy future, there is much we can learn from recent experiences in California, particularly with regards to making sure we have enough clean power supply at all times to keep the lights on at an affordable price for all consumers.

Earlier this month, during an unprecedented heatwave that baked most of the Western U.S., California’s electric grid operator was forced to institute “rolling blackouts” when the supply of electricity was insufficient to meet the state’s needs. Initial reports and news articles blamed these blackouts on California’s reliance on variable wind and solar resources for its electricity needs. 

While there were indeed errors in wind forecasting, there were several other factors that contributed to this shortage of power: extreme consumer demand, an unexpected outage of existing generators, and a lack of imports from neighboring states.  

Given our Seventy70Thirty clean energy goals, I have been asked whether HCE will have similar challenges with the reliability of our service as we add more clean energy to our mix. I want to reassure you that HCE’s clean energy goals will not impede our ability to provide reliable, safe, and affordable electricity throughout our territory.

Many of the lessons learned in California over the days following their rolling blackouts only confirmed the beliefs we already held about how we will achieve a clean energy future for our region. Whereas California relied heavily on out-of-state imports to meet its peak energy needs, our recent Request for Proposals focused on local renewable energy developments (including energy storage). These flexible resources will allow us to store excess energy when we have it and dispatch that energy when we need it the most.

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Our voluntary Peak Time Payback program, which rewards our members when they reduce their energy usage during peak electricity demand periods, cut HCE’s demand by 1% and freed up extra power supply to be moved into California during their time of need. We believe this demand response capability will only grow as our members increasingly adopt distributed energy resources like batteries and electric vehicles at their homes and workplaces.

These are but a couple of ways HCE is working to avoid having to sacrifice reliability and affordability for the sake of sustainability. Our priority will always be to keep the lights on here in our area while keeping everyone safe and comfortable; that will remain our commitment to you even as we transition together to a cleaner energy future.  

Bryan Hannegan is the president and CEO of Holy Cross Energy, a not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperative utility providing electricity and energy products and services to more than 42,000 customers in Western Colorado.

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