It's official: A coalition of Colorado utilities (including Colorado Springs Utilities) will get access to renewable energy from California and other Western states starting in 2022, under a recently finalized agreement.
The nonprofit California Independent System Operator (ISO) oversees the state's electric power system and the Western Energy Imbalance Market, or WEIM for short.
The EIM — which launched in 2014 — is a power-trading market that automatically finds low-cost energy among member utilities in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, and British Columbia, Canada.
Such agreements are especially useful for incorporating renewable energy sources, because the amount of energy generated by renewable sources like wind and solar is more unpredictable than traditional sources — and could be greater, or less, than what a given community needs.
Thus, utilities that heavily rely on these sources of energy often have surplus energy they need to give away, or a shortage of energy for which they need to buy a replacement.
Colorado Springs Utilities has recently added new solar resources but doesn't have any wind power in its arsenal. In 2019, around half of the utility's generation came from natural gas, 36 percent from coal and 9 percent from hydropower.
CSU's Palmer Solar Project, added in April, produces enough electricity to power around 22,000 homes annually, and the Grazing Yak Solar Project added late last year could power 13,000 homes.
In March, Colorado Springs Utilities joined a smaller power-sharing group under a joint dispatch agreement, or JDA. The group is comprised of three other Colorado utilities: Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy Colorado Electric and the Platte River Power Authority.
An agreement between Xcel Energy – Colorado and the California ISO, signed in May, means that the Colorado JDA will join the WEIM in 2022.
“We are excited to take the next step in joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy - Colorado, said in a May 21 statement. “Participating in this market will support our efforts to keep customer bills low while providing them with more 100% carbon-free energy from wind and solar resources. That’s both a win for the environment and another way we can help the State of Colorado meet its clean energy goals.”
Before Colorado Springs Utilities joined the JDA, plans were already in the works for the JDA to join the WEIM — a move which CSU predicted would improve rates for customers while decreasing its carbon footprint.
The utility in December announced plans to eventually join the WEIM, with an original target of 2021.
"We are committed to offering our customers clean, more diverse and affordable energy," said CEO Aram Benyamin said in a December statement
addressing those plans.