City electricity contract could limit local power generation to 3 percent |

City electricity contract could limit local power generation to 3 percent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A proposed 30-year contract for the city of Glenwood Springs to continue its partnership with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) co-op for its electrical power needs comes before city council for consideration tonight.

But one group of citizens is concerned that the long-term contract, as proposed, will severely limit the city’s ability to generate its own power from local resources in the future.

“Our community has phenomenal potential for geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, landfill gas, natural gas and even coal-seam combustion to generate power,” reads a letter to council signed by local renewable energy advocates and several former city council members.

Included in the group are former mayor Bruce Christensen and former council members Russ Arensman, Shelley Kaup and Greg Jeung.

“It would be extremely short-sighted to largely foreclose the possibility of developing these resources for a 30-plus year period,” the letter states. “Local power generation not only offers the potential for local economic development and for lower rates by reducing the need to transport electricity over long distances, it also has the potential to add stability and security to our local grid by reducing our dependency on distant power sources.”

The city of Glenwood Springs, which operates its own electric utility, has been buying power from MEAN since 2003. The existing 10-year contract expires in December 2012.

The co-op has been pushing the city to sign a 30-year contract instead, which would provide the lowest long-term rates.

With the longer-term deal would also come more member services, including a seat on the MEAN board, as well as free energy audits for commercial customers, rebates for lighting upgrades, assistance with billing software, and economic development consulting assistance.

The so-called Schedule M contract is a good long-term option for the city, the citizens’ group agrees.

The limiting factor, however, is that the contract would allow only a maximum of 768 kilowatts (kW) of locally produced energy, or 3 percent of the total local utility demand, according to the group.

Other Colorado communities that have recently negotiated contracts with MEAN, including Aspen, have bargained for far greater percentages of local energy production, they said.

“With our abundance of local energy sources, Glenwood Springs should seek a contract with MEAN that allows for at least 25 percent generation of renewable energy and other local power sources,” their letter recommends.

If approved, the new contract would not take effect until January of 2013, giving the city plenty of time to negotiate a more flexible contract, the group also suggests.

The contract proposal is on tonight’s city council agenda as an ordinance for formal approval on first reading.

Other options, according to Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Robin Millyard, would be to stick with a 10-year contract and service package, with a 5 percent premium added to electric rates (Schedule K); or a 10-year contract without a service package (Schedule J).

Also on tonight’s council agenda is a conceptual review for a major development request for Berthod Motors to build a new auto dealership lot on the Knotty Pine property at 27th Street and South Grand Avenue; and continued discussion of ways to encourage new business development.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

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