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Cause of fire at Drake Power Plant revealed, city discusses future energy needs

Posted at 9:29 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 06:32:51-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — On Wednesday, Colorado Springs Utilities shared what caused last week's fire at the Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs.

It's the second fire in five years. That, along with how expensive coal operations are, is pushing the city and the community to make changes when it comes to how people get energy.

CSU said as of about 5 p.m. on Wednesday Unit 7 was back online. CEO Aram Benyamin said the fire happened because of an oil leak that spilled onto a very hot surface. Thankfully, it was in an isolated area and customers didn't feel any interruptions. Even so, some people want the plant shut down sooner than planned.

"I kind of thought that it was par for the course."

That was Lindsay Facknitz's reaction when she heard there was a fire at the power plant.

Benyamin said, "We do have increased inspections because the units are decades old."

Knowing that, Facknitz said she'd like it shut down in the next few years. "I would like for Colorado Springs Utilities to really aggressively change from coal to renewable energies."

It's one of just many things CSU is working on as it conducts its latest Integrated Resource Plan. That process started Wednesday at a public energy planning workshop.

CSU's Chief Officer of System Planning & Projects Phil Tunnah said, "We're seeing a lot more solar panels, a lot more electric cars, a lot more consumer preferences, a lot more desire to move away from fossil fuels."

The process involves getting critical public input like Facknitz's as the city needs to figure out how to replace energy needs before the Martin Drake Power Plant closes which CSU said will be no later than 2035.

Facknitz said, "We all need to take into consideration how much our rates are going to stay stable and cheap and affordable, and renewable energy is how that's going to happen over the next 10, 20 years."

The next public workshop will be in January.

The plan CSU is working on will be presented to the utilities board and the community next summer with findings and recommendations.