Xcel Energy speeds up retirement of northwest Colorado coal plant

By: - January 4, 2021 4:39 pm

Xcel Energy’s headquarters in downtown Denver. (Google Maps)

Colorado’s largest electric utility on Monday announced that it intends to close two of its coal-fired generating units earlier than previously planned, boosting the state’s efforts to transition to clean energy as it seeks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Xcel Energy will retire Unit 1 at the Hayden Generating Station in northwest Colorado in 2028, and Unit 2 will close in 2027; the two generating units had already been scheduled to be shuttered in 2030 and 2036, respectively.

“The retirement of Hayden is an important part of Xcel Energy’s vision for a carbon-free electric system by mid-century,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado, said in a statement.

The Hayden plant, which began operating in 1965, currently employs about 75 people, Xcel said in a press release. The company will work with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 to support plant employees, including through retraining programs and retirements, and no layoffs are anticipated.

“We are committed to supporting our employees and the region as we move forward with our clean energy transition in Colorado,” Jackson said. “Our top priority is finding new roles for our workers and supporting the communities that have served us so well.”

In 2018, Xcel became one of the country’s first major utilities to commit to achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050, as well as an 80% emissions cut by 2030. Environmental advocates on Monday praised the utility’s latest announcement but noted that Xcel has yet to move up the retirement dates of two other coal units elsewhere in the state — making it the only electric provider in Colorado with plans to continue operating coal plants beyond 2030.

“Xcel has recently gone from leader to lolligagger in Colorado’s transition off of coal to renewable energy, so it’s nice to see our state’s largest utility recognize the financial, environmental and health benefits of retiring Hayden early,” said Anna McDevitt, an advocate with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Xcel still has work to do as the owner of the only two Colorado coal plants with no closure plans in sight, including Comanche 3, which is twice the size of Hayden and the largest climate polluter in our state.”

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.