Holy Cross Energy received state confirmation of its ambitious clean energy plan this month, which confirmed that the company’s strategy to reach a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is accurate and achievable.
Holy Cross Energy laid out its latest clean energy plan in 2020, when the company’s board decided to expand on its 2017 goal of a 70% carbon reduction by 2030 and a full transition to renewables over a decade.
The plan they presented for state approval is currently the most ambitious in Colorado, President and CEO Brian Hannigan said, and it is at the forefront of utility companies moving to renewables in the country.
“It’s only one of six such plans anywhere in the United States,” Hannigan said. “By that, I mean the level of ambition, 100%, and also speed, 2030. That’s eight years from now. This was yesterday in terms of electrical utility planning terms, and that means we have to move at a pace and scope that will make a difference and hopefully inspire others to act accordingly.”
Holy Cross Energy voluntarily submitted the plan to the state’s Department of Air Pollution Control in December 2021 and received news this month that the plan’s emissions-reduction calculations have been verified and the result is a 99% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Hannigan said that being a leader in renewable energy means that the plans that Holy Cross officials put in place consist of original ideas and approaches, many of which are firsts of their kind. Getting a legitimate third party to sign off on the plan’s viability is an important sign that they are moving in the right direction.
“The renewable energy target that we developed was something we hadn’t seen matched. It was something we really needed to pioneer,” Hannigan said. We will be the first to get there to achieve our goals.”
The drive to move fully to renewables is not only driven by the growing impacts of climate change. It also offers a financial benefit to both the company and its customers.
Hannigan said the conventional wisdom that renewables are more expensive than fossil fuel resources is no longer true, thanks to technological improvements that have increased the efficiency of renewables while lowering cost levels. Utility companies no longer have to choose between economy and sustainability, because the two go hand in hand.
“You look at the gasoline pump and the price of crude oil at over $100, and then you compare that fluctuation in those prices to what we get when we contract a wind farm for 15 years at a fixed price that doesn’t fluctuate based on global events, supply chain issues, or inflationary expenditures,” Hannigan said. . “So not only are we saving money – and we’ve saved more than $15 million in the past several years – we’re also saving more stable energy supply costs, which are about half of what all our members pay each month in their electric bill.”
As the primary energy provider for Eagle County, Holy Cross Energy also feels a responsibility to lead the county’s goal of reducing total emissions by 50% by 2030. Electricity consumption currently accounts for about a third of total emissions, and Hannigan said leadership in renewable electricity will provide a sustainable alternative to sources other greenhouse gases.
“The easiest way for us to do this as a society is to have clean electricity, and then use that clean electricity as fuel to replace oil, natural gas, propane, and all the other things that emit carbon,” Hannigan said. “So we have to get our job done early so that everyone else’s job can be much easier.”
Hannigan hopes that Holy Cross Energy’s clean energy plan will serve as a model for other utility companies, and will provide a practical example of how to achieve ambitious renewable energy goals and generate profits. He said the decision to switch originally came from listening to consumer demand for renewables, and that utility companies across the country must listen and respond to their customers’ values.
“I think — and you see this from evidence of utilities commitments like this across the country — there is no reason why electric utilities should not focus on providing the clean energy that consumers want,” Hannigan said. “I think the biggest thing that drives us forward is that our communities are really speaking out and saying this is what we want, and to the extent that other communities want to raise their voices as well and work with their communities to make sure that happens.”
To learn more about Holy Cross Energy’s clean energy plan and initiatives, visit HolyCross.com/renewable-energy.
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