Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future

Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future
In order to move toward a more sustainable Colorado Springs we must address the system of conventional energy production that fuels the city. Colorado Springs experiences an annual growth rate of 2.5%. The increase in population from year to year results in an increase in the demand for affordable energy. This growing demand in turn places considerable stress on the finite resources that produce this affordable energy. There is a daunting amount of scientific evidence warning people about the environmental and health effects associated with coal-fired power plants, coal mining, and the combustion of natural gas. As we exhaust our finite resources and become increasingly aware of the harm that conventional energy production has inflicted upon our communities, we must look to renewable energy sources. These renewable energy sources provide a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable alternative to coal and natural gas. Obstacles in the way of making the shift from conventional to renewable energy include cost considerations and questions of reliability. Education is the key to overcoming these obstacles. A community that is informed about the drawbacks of conventional energy and the benefits of renewable energy should demand a healthier and more sustainable energy program from Colorado Springs Utilities. We propose to educate the people of Colorado Springs through the formation of a Sustainable Energy Task Force. This task force will increase each individual?s awareness of their impact on the health of the community and environment; and will work with city council and csu to develop a cohesive Sustainable Energy Plan for Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs is community addicted to cheap energy. Unfortunately, most citizens do not realize the true cost of conventional energy production, which is considerably subsidized by taxpayers. When one factors together the adverse health effects and environmental degradation that result from conventional energy production the cost rises even more dramatically. Customers of Colorado Springs Utilities are unaware of these effects and see coal and natural gas as the cheapest forms of energy available. Although renewable energy appears more expensive at face value, a deeper look reveals an energy source that is much cleaner and more sustainable for future generations. The people of Colorado Springs must be educated about the adverse effects of conventional energy production and the opportunities that renewable energies hold for the future in order to maintain the health of the environment and society of which they are a part.

Colorado Springs is projected to use 750MW at its peak demand during the summer of 2002. The Springs Utilities can produce a total of 612MW of power in its own facilities. Of this, 463Mw will be produced by coal burning power plants (the last plant came online in 1979). Gas powered energy plants will contribute 115MW of electricity. The city?s four hydro powered plants will produce a total of 33MW. An additional 1MW can be produced for emergencies by a backup diesel generator.

To make up the difference between production capabilities and electricity demand in 2002 Colorado Springs Utilities will make contract purchases totaling to 204MW. Western will contribute 79MW (from its hydro facilities) and Enron will contribute 125MW (from traditional fossil sources). Up to 1MW additional power will be made available to customers at a green pricing rate of $3.00/100kw block of energy from Xcel?s wind generation farm.

Colorado Springs Utilities in conjunction with El Paso Electric is building a new high efficiency 500MW gas generated combined cycle unit to come online in April, 2003. Purchase of this power will start at 150MW and purchases will increase to the full capacity of the unit over the next decade. Because the current coal fired units will need to be improved to meet environmental regulations and because consumer energy demand will have increased by the time we are purchasing the full capacity of this plant, new generation sources will be needed.

The average Colorado Springs Utilities customer uses 100 cubic feet of natural gas each day(18). Together the community uses enough natural gas on six cold winter days if used to fuel a huge burner to boil away Pueblo Reservoir (18). This is reflective of the inefficient design of many Colorado Springs homes.

The majority of electricity used in Colorado Springs today comes from burning coal. Coal costs a penny a pound, and the nation has enough coal in its earth to last several hundred years (2). One of the reasons that energy produced from coal is cheaper than renewable energy is because consumers do not pay the full cost of the coal energy production. Mining coal from within the earth is an energy and labor-intensive process that puts the health of the miners and the environment at risk. Over the past 25 years, coal mining has disturbed nearly two million acres of land, only half of which has been reclaimed to minimal environmental standards (2). The $28 billion a year coal industry receives an estimated $8 billion in taxpayer subsidies annually (1).

The original justifications for many of these subsidies no longer exist. Political action committees made up of stakeholders in the mining industry contribute heavily to political campaigns and lobby against reforms of outdated mining laws. From January 1989 to June 1995, mining industry committees contributed over $21.5 million to Congressional campaigns (1). The mining Law of 1872 was designed to encourage economic activity on the frontier, and allows mineable land to be purchased for only $5/acre. These mining laws ignore the true value of the minerals. Many minerals have risen in price as their supply decreases, but the price of land designated by the mining law does not acknowledge this.

There are economic and environmental risks involved with locating and operating a mine. There are many government programs that subsidize the exploration of new mines and the equipment associated with mining. Essentially, the taxpayers are paying for the risks of discovering new mines. Taxpayers also pay to clean the polluted groundwater streams after the mine sites have been abandoned. More than 52 mines have been declared Superfund sites by the Environmental protection Agency and will cost more than $17 billion to clean up. Reclamation of other abandoned mines could cost as much as $60 billion (1).

The taxpayer dollars gobbled up by the mining industry take public support away from other important programs. Taxpayers should not be supporting an industry that is neither environmentally beneficial nor economically sustainable. While coal has been the nation?s traditional source of energy, this energy is only affordable at the expense of the environment and taxpayer subsidies.

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of industrial air pollution (10). Pollution from toxic emissions poses a threat to the health of society and the environment. Harmful coal-fired power plant emissions include nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide. In 1998 the electric utilities industry released more toxic chemical air pollution than the chemical, paper, plastic, and refining industries together (11). Toxic metal and acid gases in the form of mercury, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and hydrofluoric acid, are released in large quantities and are not well regulated.

Colorado Springs? Drake and Nixon power plants rank in the dirtiest 10% of all US power plants for nitrogen oxide emissions (13). Nitrogen oxides are known to create ground level ozone, or smog, when emitted into the atmosphere and reacted with volatile organic compounds. When inhaled, smog burns through the cell walls of the lung causing the lung to become inflamed and swell up. This can lead to shortness of breath, painful breathing, coughing, and reduced resistance to colds, and infections. Smog poses the greatest threat to children who breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults (12). Children also generally spend more time outdoors recreating than adults, and therefore may breathe more outside air that is contaminated by these emissions.

Colorado Springs? Drake and Nixon power plants also rank in the dirtiest 10% of all US power plants for sulfur dioxide emissions (13). Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain and also produces strong toxic acid gases in the atmosphere. Acid rain negatively impacts the environment by weakening the defenses of trees against infestation by insects, and preventing plants from absorbing nutrients from the soil. Acid rain is also an economic threat because it can corrode city buildings and structures. The health effects of sulfur dioxide range from respiratory symptoms, and reduced lung function, to increased hospitalization for respiratory disease, and mortality. Again, vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with existing lung conditions are more adversely impacted by these emissions.

Colorado Springs Drake and Nixon power plants rank in the 50th percentile for particulate matter emissions (13). Particulate matter is harmful because it is small enough to evade the respiratory system?s defense mechanisms and go straight into the lungs. Regularly breathing high concentrations of particulate matter can result in reduced lung function, restricted physical activity, increased hospitalization for respiratory and cardiac disease, and premature death.

Coal-fired power plants are one of the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps outgoing heat from the Earth. Global warming is a natural event that has been accelerated by humans and their industrial practices. Climate change has the potential to throw ecosystems all over the world out of balance, threatening the viability of all species.

Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants pose an exceptionally large threat to society because federal law fails to regulate them. Mercury is a neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to children. Mercury impairs the development of the nervous system and can cause delayed mental development, learning disabilities, and deficiencies in motor function and memory.

The most frustrating, and dangerous aspect of coal-fired power plant pollution is the grandfather loophole in federal legislation. More than 80% of the nation?s coal plants have at least one grandfathered boiler (10). In the Drake power plant in Colorado Springs, two of the three boilers are grand-fathered, meaning they do not have to meet the latest federal clean air regulations on sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions. If a grandfathered power plant were to regulate sulfur dioxide emissions, only 5% as much of the toxic hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids would be released per unit of electricity produced. The amount of sulfuric acid released could be reduced by 40% (11). Regulating nitrogen oxide emissions would greatly reduce the amount of ground level ozone in our cities.

Natural gas has been hailed as the solution to the emissions problem associated with coal-fired power. Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal, producing far lower levels of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Emissions from natural gas combustion pose a smaller threat to the environment and society than coal, but the threat still exists. In areas with poor air quality, any amount of harmful emissions can have an effect on the population. Another drawback of natural gas is that methane is known to be twenty times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. The amount of methane that leaks from natural gas piping systems is unknown. Also unknown are the negative health effects associated with this leaking, and with the use of natural gas as an energy source in general.

Reliability is one reason consumers are reluctant to purchase renewable energy. Neither wind nor sun is a constant source of energy. By diversifying the overall mix of energy sources powering the city, however, the system will become more reliable in the long run. The production of new storage technologies such as fuel cells could also alleviate the reliability problem. A major cause of the recent energy crisis was an over-reliance on fossil fuels. Fluctuations in the international fossil fuel market have caused utilities to go bankrupt and prices to soar. These effects will only worsen if reliance on fossil fuels increases. Fossil fuels are only reliable if there is an ample supply. By creating a diverse mix of energy sources for the city, csu could provide a more reliable energy source that would be less subject to fluctuations in the energy market.

Economics are the driving force behind all decisions made in society today. It is estimated that the US will import 75% of its oil by the year 2010 (3). This creates a trade deficit that could be reduced with more local energy sources. Many renewable energy resources are developed locally. The manufacture, design, installation, servicing, and marketing of renewable energy products will create jobs and boost the economy. The United States manufactures about 2/3 of the world?s photovoltaic systems. It exports about 70% of these systems, resulting in annual sales of more than $300 million. Renewable energy companies also contribute more tax revenue locally than conventional energy sources (3).

Much of the industry in Colorado Springs is based on finite resources, such as the computer chip-building industry. If the city could develop a renewable energy industry, it would stimulate our economy. Developing sustainable industry would support economic success in the future when other resources begin to dwindle.

For the average consumer who is only concerned with up-front costs, coal energy is the cheapest and most efficient source of energy. However, when one considers the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that the coal mining industry receives annually from the government, and the outrageous environmental and health hazards posed from mining and burning coal, this form of energy is really quite costly.

A complete shift from conventional to renewable energy would be devastating to the economy. By integrating these technologies into the traditional mix over time as they become cost-effective, renewable energy becomes an economically feasible source of energy. As renewable energy technologies are expanded and utilized on a larger scale, the prices will decrease. Programs like Arizona?s, which integrate renewable energy costs among all customers, make renewable energy increasingly affordable. The customers in Arizona are paying a maximum of only 35 cents/month to support the renewable energy program. The more states that mandate the inclusion of renewable energy in their utilities, the cheaper the technology will become. Price fluctuations in the natural gas market are also serving to make renewable energy more cost-competitive (4).

As demand increases at a rate greater than development of new facilities, prices for green power will increase. One thing csu may want to consider is the possible impact deregulation may have on the market for renewables. If federal regulations come into play in a similar manner to how they have on the state level in some places, they may require that utilities provide renewable energy as a set percentage of their package. If this were to happen without first developing or buying up renewable technologies these power sources will be in short supply and therefore available only at a high cost. If on the other hand csu had its renewables package together already they could benefit from having already signed contracts at a lower price.

Another economic issue facing the renewable energy market relates to the importance of environmental social justice. People in low-income households spend a significantly greater portion of their income on household energy needs. It would be unrealistic to expect these people to pay a premium price for energy if they can barely afford the cost of coal energy. There are subsidies available currently through csu to help low-income families pay their energy bills. If renewable energy becomes more predominant in Colorado Springs, these subsidies could continue to help low-income families afford their electricity.

Currently, Colorado Springs Utilities has a variety of programs in place to address the problem of sustainability.

Integrated Resource Plan: The irp is required by the Western Area Power Administration, and must be revised every five years. The purpose of the plan is to integrate the supply and demand side of the electricity market in order to provide the best plan for csu customers. The supply side of the plan deals with where the power comes from and how much is produced. It determines when it is necessary to construct new plants, as well as maintenance of existing plants. The demand side of the plan analyzes how much power will be demanded, which determines how much is supplied. The demand side promotes efficient energy use in order to conserve energy and increase reserves. All utilities are required to maintain a reserve to avoid blackouts during peak demand periods. If one utility underestimates their demand and runs out of power, they can get power from other utilities? reserves.

Colorado Springs Utilities produces 80% of its own power, one of the highest local loads of any utility. During peak consumption periods, the rest of the City?s power is provided through contract purchases with other power companies. In 2000, csu purchased 20% of their power through contract purchases, but these purchases represented 66% of their annual costs (7). In order to avoid overshooting their maximum energy producing capacity, csu puts a good deal of effort into promoting conservation of energy. They include bill inserts to advertise energy efficient products and other ways customers can increase the efficiency of their home.

Reducing energy consumption is a good first step towards reducing the environmental effects of conventional energy production. Unfortunately, energy conservation is primarily promoted in order to ease the demand for power felt by the utility, not to benefit the environment. The integrated resource plan does not call for the integration of a variety of energy resources. There are several ways that csu could reduce demand for conventional energy while benefiting the environment. Currently, csu buys 1 MW of wind energy that is integrated into their overall service. By purchasing more wind energy, they would reduce the pressure felt by coal-fired plants during energy use peaks. Supporting the wind program would decreases costs of wind energy in the long run. Another way to reduce the demand for conventionally generated power would be to support the use of photovoltaic panels for businesses and individual homes. By incrementally reducing dependency on conventionally produced energy, csu could ease their demand.

In order to meet the growing energy demands of the city, csu has partnered with the El Paso Corporation to build a 500 MW natural gas plant. The shared capital investment reduces the financial risk to the utilities. csu will purchase an increasing percentage of the power generated at the plant over the coming years, with eventual plans for full ownership of the plant. The plant has some good environmental aspects. Burning natural gas emits less than half of the carbon dioxide than coal. The plant also uses a high efficiency combined-cycle, which recycles heat in order to conserve energy. However, the supply side of the integrated resource plan should focus more on increasing use of renewable energy, and less on increasing reliance on finite resources like coal and natural gas.

Low-Income Programs

Along with the federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, Colorado Springs Utilities has their own program for low-income customers called Citizens Option to Provide Energy (cope). cope relies on voluntary donations from other csu customers to help low-income customers afford their electricity. Customers donate over $100,000 annually. In the past, csu sponsored another program where they donated weatherization kits to low-income households in order to make these homes more energy efficient. This program was more effective because it reduced energy use at the source. Low-income homes are often less energy efficient due to poor insulation and windows. Low-income families spend a significantly higher portion of their incomes on their energy bill. It would be much more economical for csu to permanently reduce a high monthly energy bill that low-income customers cannot afford, rather than providing a monthly subsidy. The money that is raised through programs like cope would be better used for weatherization kits than monthly subsidies.

Educational Programs

csu has an E-star trailer that gives demonstrations promoting energy efficiency at local community events. They also support the local clean air campaign. CSU?s school program focuses on safety and water conservation. While these are important issues, the program seems fundamentally flawed without energy education. When asked if there were any energy conservation or renewable energy programs, a csu representative claimed the company is trying to determine whether or not there is value in a program like this (17).

csu has partnered with government agencies to install two 4×12 foot solar panels on the roof of Mountain Ridge Middle School to serve as a demonstration project. It is the first PV system installed in Colorado Springs that is directly tied to CSU?s electric distribution system (8).

The largest barrier for CSU?s renewable energy program is not economic, or social, it is educational. Because the utility is publicly owned, they must supply what the community demands. In Colorado Springs, the majority of customers want the least expensive energy available. Most customers choose to conserve energy for financial rather than environmental reasons. Most customers do not understand the devastating effects conventional energy production has on the environment and their own health.

If Colorado Springs Utilities can create an energy education program geared towards children, it is possible for the entire community to better understand energy production. A customer may not be willing to consider renewable energy if they learn about it from a flyer in the mail. When parents ask their children what they learned in school that day, however, and the child tells them, ?I finally figured out why I have asthma,? those parents may think twice about consuming so much energy.

Colorado Springs public schools should have an annual energy awareness day. csu could produce a booklet for children, that explains in simple terms where energy comes from. It could detail how coal and natural gas are mined, transported, and burned. There should be a section about energy conservation, with some simple tips, and another section about renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The booklet should include many colorful pictures and diagrams to make these ideas easy to understand.

In order to make learning more fun, the second half of the day could be devoted to a poster contest. The students could take all the information they have learned during ?energy day,? and apply it to a poster depicting why renewable energy is important. The posters would be submitted to a panel of judges at csu. The school that produced the best poster would win a set of solar panels to be installed at the school. Another beneficial education tool for students would be a solar oven. These solar products would serve as an educational tool for future students. They could also be incorporated into an open house, so parents and other members of the community could benefit from the renewable resource education.

The program would be more economically feasible if csu were to team up with other businesses that are promoting solar education in public schools. The Public Service Company of Colorado and Altair energy have teamed up to fund the Renewable Energy Trust Solar for Schools program. Customers are encouraged to make tax-deductible donations to support renewable energy education in schools (8).

Springs Energy Saver

The Springs energy saver is a meter that visually represents the level of energy conservation that csu is requesting from its customers on a given day. The meter is updated daily in the Gazette, during weather forecasts, and on the csu website. The settings on the meter range from low to maximum, referring to the level of energy conservation requested. Over 3000 businesses are contacted directly by csu to request energy conservation measures. During peak energy consumption periods, businesses and residences are asked to cooperate with csu by turning off air conditioning and unnecessary lighting.

In theory, the meter is a good way to let customers know what type of loads the utilities are facing. However, energy conservation is not a practice that should be turned up or down depending on the weather. While the meter itself designates different levels of conservation visually, the instructions that accompany the levels on the meter have little differentiation. When the meter is on low, customers are instructed to use energy wisely. Medium means start conserving. High means conservation is a must. Maximum means use only essential energy. One could argue that to use only essential energy means to use energy wisely, and the different levels are somewhat ambiguous.

Residential Programs

Colorado Springs Utilities provides a home efficiency profile for its customers. Customers can complete an energy profile online or on paper. The profile requires information about previous energy bills, appliances, heating systems, and insulation. The list of questions is thorough. Once the survey is completed, the efficiency profile gives the customer graphs to compare energy usage throughout the year, as well as between different appliances. The analysis also includes individual graphs depicting the difference in cost that could be achieved for different appliances by following conservation recommendations. One aspect of the energy efficiency profile that could be made easier is if csu programmed billing information into the profile so individual customers did not have to go through all their old energy bills to fill out the form.

csu also offers rebates for customers who buy energy efficient appliances. The rebate serves as an incentive for customers to pay extra for energy efficient products. Although the rebate is only towards the initial purchase, customers who use these products will have lower monthly energy bills.

Renewable Energy Program

Colorado Springs Utilities? renewable energy program is called Green Power. Launched in January 1999, the program supports wind power. csu has purchased 1 MW of wind power from the Ponnequin Wind Facility near the Colorado/Wyoming border. The power is divided up into blocks; each block is 100kWh.They sell blocks of power for $3.00 each (9). When a customer buys a block, they are not buying an additional amount of wind power from the farm, but rather paying for wind power csu has already purchased. Due to the nature of the power lines that carry the electricity, the wind power bought by csu is distributed throughout the grid rather than going directly to those who finance it.

Customers may be more willing to support the premium price for wind power if they were guaranteed that the power they were using in their own household was clean. Since this is not possible, csu should simply divide the cost of the total wind power provided between all of its customers. Each customer would have to pay only pennies more on their monthly bill to improve the cleanliness of the overall mix of power provided to the entire city.

Other Communities

Many other parts of the nation and the world are integrating renewable energy into their utilities. Since 1994, the Japanese have used subsidies to install rooftop PV panels on 33,000 homes. By the year 2010, Japan plans to have installed PV on 70,000 roofs, providing 4,600 MW of solar energy. Germany has set a goal of 300 MW of solar energy. Germany has over 6,000 MW of wind power, working towards a goal of 22,000 MW by the year 2010. (5).

Several states have already created legislation to insure the development of renewables in the free market climate of deregulation. Many states are in the process of legislating Renewable Portfolio Standards. These are designed to insure that renewables continue to be developed under a deregulated market where normal market activities may not provide the incentives for capital investments in renewables.

A Renewables Portfolio Standard may mandate that a percentage of energy that a utility provider supplies be renewable, or that a percent of profits go to the support of research, development, or infrastructure of renewables. These standards are often implemented on a step-wise increment of percent supplied or support of renewables industries. There has recently been a push for such portfolio standards to be implemented on a national level.

To overcome the obstacles of high capital costs in creating renewable power sources and to counter the tendency of consumers to choose the cheapest product, some states will implement Public (or Systems) Benefit Funds at the time of deregulation. These funds are generated by placing a small tariff ($0.001-$0.003/kWh) on all utilities bills in the state. This money goes toward systems upgrades, construction of renewable energy generators, consumer education, or renewable generation credits which can be used to support renewables in other areas of the country.

Other incentives that have been developed by other states include generation disclosure, net metering, and green pricing. Generation disclosure mandates that information pertaining to the emissions (CO2, nox, sox, mercury) of a given utility be disclosed to potential customers. Net metering allows consumers to install renewable generation systems in their homes and get credit with their utility for energy they contribute to the grid. Green pricing programs allow utilities to buy energy from a renewable generator, and allow customers a share of this energy at a premium price. The energy is generally available in blocks, measured in kWh.

California is one of the nation?s leaders in renewable energy. In 1999, California received 12% of its electricity from non-hydro renewable energy sources, while the entire nation received only 2.3% (5). Currently, 170,000 California homes purchase green power. Green power is a program offered by an increasing number of utilities that allows customers to supply a portion of their energy use with renewable energy. Geothermal energy provides 2400 MW of power annually in California (10). There is 1600 MW of wind power installed in California, producing 1.2% of the electricity used by the state (3).

In Colorado by May 1999, more than 11,000 residences, 200 businesses, and a dozen municipalities had signed contracts to pay a total of over $1 million to purchase almost 20 MW of wind power (5).

Texas has mandated that 2,000 MW of new renewable energy be installed by 2009. 186 MW of wind power has already been installed, with plans for an added 731 MW. Wind energy in Texas sells for 4.7 cents per kWh. A 107 MW wind farm in Minnesota sells energy for an average of 3 cents per kWh. This is competitive with conventional power prices (5).

In New Mexico in 1997, The Land and Water Fund helped form the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy. The group has taken great strides to incorporate important environmental elements into the state?s utilities plan. They have created a fund to assist low income households in the purchase of renewable energy, mandated renewable energy be incorporated in the overall mix, and informed customers about the environmental impacts of their energy use (4).

In Arizona in April 2000, electricity providers were required to include renewable energy as part of their basic service. The state will spend $100 million on renewables in the next four years, and hopes to provide over 100 MW of renewable energy. The project will be funded through a customer surcharge of no more than 35 cents/month for residential customers (4).

Colorado Springs could benefit from changes such as those made in the aforementioned states. If csu prints individual environmental impact statements on monthly bills, and puts out an sustainable energy brochure which stressed the negative effects of conventional energy production, consumers will be able to make more informed decisions and will demand a healthier and more sustainable energy source from the Utilities.

Individual Environmental impact: Most people do not connect their own personal energy consumption with any global environmental impact. While they may be aware of the environmental concerns associated with conventional energy production, most people do not view their own energy consumption as having a significant impact on the global problem. The only way to improve the global impact of conventional energy production is through individual conservation. Individual energy consumers will be more willing to conserve if they realize how that energy is adversely impacting their lives.

Most people do not realize how much energy large appliances like refrigerators and dryers actually use, or how much natural gas it takes to heat their house in the winter. On customers? monthly energy bill, the amount of energy consumed should be put into perspective. Most individuals do not know how much energy is in a kWh. Following the information about how many kWh were consumed in the month, the bill should state how many light bulbs could be illuminated for one hour using that much energy. Following the information on cubic feet of natural gas used, Utilities should print how many miles could be driven in a natural gas vehicle using the amount gas the customer consumed that month.

The bill should also include information about the emissions caused by the individual?s energy consumption. It is important for customers to understand the individual impact their energy consumption has on the environment. Under the information about the amount of energy consumed in the month, the bill should state how much carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury emissions resulted from this consumption. Individuals may not understand why these emissions are bad for the health of society or the environment. To clarify this, customers should also receive a Sustainable Energy Information Brochure that lists the environmental and health effects of these emissions.

Brochure for customers

Colorado Springs Utilities should send an annual or biannual brochure to all customers concerning the environmental and health impacts of coal-fired power plant emissions. This brochure should also be made available to new customers seeking utilities from csu. The brochure will outline the adverse health effects of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury, as well as their effects on the biotic communities in our area. The brochure will also provide information on CSU?s renewable energy program and energy conservation programs. Presented with the facts about their energy use and how it is effecting themselves and the community, consumers may be better informed to make critical decisions about what kind of energy production they wish to support, as well as what they can do to decrease their individual impact.

The Sustainable Energy Task Force will implement the solutions presented in this paper into the existing Utilities program. This group will work closely with csu and the City Council to further research and develop these ideas. Together they will ultimately come up with a cohesive Renewable Energy Program that satisfies the needs of the environment, the energy consumers of Colorado Springs, and the Utilities.

If the educational program is successful in Colorado Springs, customers should consume less energy and buy more green power. csu should be able to evaluate the success of the program by creating a database of customers? energy bills one year before and after the education campaign. If customers buy more energy efficient appliances, use less energy, or buy a larger percentage of renewable energy, their awareness of the environmental and health effects of conventional energy production has increased and the program was successful.

A sustainable energy program must balance the demands of today with the needs of future generations. It must be environmentally sensitive, economically viable, and benefit the well being of the community. By educating the community about the environmental and health effects of conventional energy production, as well as the possibilities held by renewable energy, the plan satisfies all three of these sustainability guidelines.

The next step

Utilities, like so many other businesses, have become to attached to short-term thinking and their bottom line. Despite the overarching long-term economic and environmental benefits of a shift to renewable energy, many utilities have a hard time looking beyond the initially high increase in rates that would result. With the prospect of deregulation of the electricity industry, utility companies are unwilling to make long-term investments without any guarantees for business in the future. The high upfront costs of solar panels and wind farms create a significant barrier for their widespread utilization. Renewable energy producers are forced to finance 30 years of electricity production up front, which is risky due to unstable future markets (6).

It is necessary for government to shift some of the subsidies used for development of the coal and natural gas industries towards helping utilities and private industry invest in renewable energy capital. It is also necessary for the utilities to understand that in order to gain a competitive edge in a deregulated electricity market, they need to individualize their services and create a niche market for themselves.

We feel that in order to make a shift towards renewables, there needs to be a shift in consumer demand. We hope to achieve this through consumer education about the health and environmental effects of conventional energy production. We also hope to increase awareness of energy conservation and the possibilities for renewable energy. It is necessary for consumers to view support for renewable energy as support for a community ethic that embraces volunteerism and development of a sustainable community.

Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future 7.5 of 10 on the basis of 2939 Review.