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Shutdown of Drake Power Plant more than a decade ahead of schedule?

Posted at 6:43 PM, Dec 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-19 21:46:33-05

COLORADO SPRING- Could the Martin Drake Power Plant south of downtown Colorado Springs close more than a decade ahead of schedule? Power company leaders and City Council President Richard Skorman say it can happen, but there are skeptics. A key step in revitalizing the area south of downtown Colorado Springs is closing the power plant, but before that can happen there has to be another way to keep the lights on in the city. If the shutdown happens too fast some city leaders fear it could mean a higher electric bill.

Could the Martin Drake Power Plant south of downtown Colorado Springs close more than a decade ahead of schedule? Power company leaders and City Council President Richard Skorman say it can happen, but there are skeptics. A key step in revitalizing the area south of downtown Colorado Springs is closing the power plant, but before that can happen there has to be another way to keep the lights on in the city. If the shutdown happens too fast some city leaders fear it could mean a higher electric bill.

The Martin Drake power plant keeps the lights on in communities across Colorado Springs, but city leaders say the decades old power plant has worn out its welcome south of downtown.

“There is a huge renaissance going on down there. The Olympic Museum and a new Olympic Events Center that’s going to hold 10 to 15 thousand people for concerts down there and all of it is in the shadow of the Drake Power Plant,” said Skorman.

The city council set a deadline of 2035 to shutdown the power plant, but with construction projects getting underway in the area, that timeline has moved up significantly.

“I think we can do 2023, but again we need to look at all the details and make sure, but that’s when we will have the infrastructure built out to have new transmission to replace Drake,” said Skorman.

The concern for some councilmembers is what a quicker closure of the power plant could mean for our electric bills if there is stress on the power supply.

“I know some members on the board are much more anxious to get closer to 2022, 2023, maybe even earlier and we’ll look at that, but the numbers that I have seen for closing Drake in the early 2020s is a lot of money for our rate payers and by a lot of money I mean a 10 to 15% increase in their bills,” said Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Strand.

The Colorado Springs Utilities CEO says solar and battery power will be crucial in replacing the power plant and his crews are trying to find a way to close the plant quickly without impacting customers.

“My best solution would be to go through this entire transition with no rate impacts. That would be our ultimate goal and I think we have some solutions in place that actually can accomplish those if we phase it right and do these projects right,” said CEO OF Colorado Springs Utilities Aram Benyamin.

In just a few weeks the CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities and his staff will give a presentation to city leaders about how the power plant can be shutdown in the next few years. Ultimately it will be up to city councilmembers to decide how to proceed. We will continue to follow this story in the new year.