Colorado Springs to spend $3 million monthly on replacement power after fire

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) said May 15 that it could spend an estimated $3 million per month on replacement power costs following the recent fire at the Martin Drake coal-fired power plant.

The 254 MW Drake has traditionally provided nearly one-third of the community’s power needs at some of the lowest cost per kilowatt hour, CSU said. The accidental fire started the morning of May 5. Although no injuries resulted, the blaze did damage to the physical plant.

CSU has contracted consulting engineers Lutz, Daily & Brain (LD&B) to help with the post-fire planning. The utility has also secured a contractor for facility cleanup and notified its scrubber contractor to resume work.

That electricity is being replaced by Colorado Springs Utilities’ own natural gas-fired plants and purchased power from other electric providers in the region. The additional cost for the replacement power is estimated at $3 million per month depending on the natural gas market and summer electric demand.

To recover the additional costs, Utilities will submit a request to increase the Electric Cost Adjustment (ECA) rate to City Council at the May 27 meeting. The ECA rate would increase to $0.0102 per kWh and would be effective June 1.

If approved, the change would increase the typical residential customer monthly bill by $5.34, or 7.4 percent. The typical residential customer uses 600 kWh per month. Commercial and industrial customer bills would increase by 10.5 percent to 11.2 percent depending on electric usage.

The proposed rate increase is not designed for and is not needed to cover the cost to repair the Drake Power Plant. CSU has adequate insurance coverage to get the plant up and running again. Insurance does not cover replacement power costs.

CSU had already been considering options for the future of the plant prior to the fire.

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