A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy raises questions on Xcel Energy’s plans to decommission two coal-fired electrical generating plants, replacing them with solar and wind systems.

According to the report, Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan would reduce emissions by 53 percent over two decades. On the other hand, continuing to operate the two Comanche plants in Pueblo, outfitting them with carbon capture technology, would reduce emissions by 65 percent.

A Colorado Springs Gazette story noted that retaining the Comanche units and equipping them with carbon capture would create significantly more jobs in Colorado and Pueblo than Xcel’s plan.

At the same time it could lower electrical costs for Xcel customers.

A key reason why Xcel is pushing the Comanche conversions is because it is guaranteed approximately a 10 percent rate of return on its investments in new facilities.

This means that for every dollar Xcel puts into new equipment, it is guaranteed a return of about 10 cents, which in many instances amounts to a better return than the company sees from its other operations.

The result is greater profits for the Minnesota-based company paid for by additional expense to its Colorado customers.

It is no wonder that Xcel is quick to comply with and even exceed politicians’ bills setting standards and dates for conversion to wind and solar.

Intermountain Rural Electric Association, a customer-owned utility serving several nearby mountain counties that gets its electrical power from Xcel, is opposed to the conversion because the cooperative believes it will raise costs to its customers.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission should review both Xcel’s proposal as well as the federal government report.

If the PUC finds that continuing to operate the Comanche plants is in the best interest of Xcel’s Colorado customers, it should act accordingly, delaying if not nixing this conversion.

Fire counterintuitive

It’s counterintuitive. How can a wildfire be burning in the Arkansas Valley?

Did not the basin have an above-average snowpack, of 149 percent of median as of April 1?

Didn’t the Arkansas flow for several weeks at about 4,000 cubic feet per second? Aren’t there substantial patches of snow still atop Sawatch peaks?

That a wildfire burns east of Salida and northwest of Cañon City shows just how quickly conditions can change.

The valley from Salida to Cañon has seen little moisture in June. The Mail’s rain gauge in Salida recorded about half the normal rain for the month, 0.45 inch versus an average of 0.83 inch.

While storms have threatened practically every afternoon, there’s been little actual precipitation. And with warming, windy weather, here we have a wildfire.

Depending on the day, the forecast calls for a 40 to 80 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms over the weekend. In addition, the statewide July forecast calls for above-average monsoon rain.

Question now is, will we see some moisture?

Salida-Aspen at 43

Now in its 43rd year, Salida Aspen Concerts presents the second in its series of performances for this season on Saturday, with a viola recital by Matthew Lipman. The concerts are a wonderful opportunity to hear and see top young classical musicians right here in Salida.

— MJB