More people, more power
Future growth could impact local electricity
December 8, 2006
Steamboat Springs — Northwest Colorado’s booming energy industries and rapid population growth in Routt County could stress electricity infrastructure in the Yampa Valley, an official said Thursday.
“There are things coming, most notably the increased demand for electricity by the oil and gas industry, that has us concerned about our ability to maintain or provide electricity for that growth sector in the future,” said Jim Chappell, spokesman for Yampa Valley Electric Association.
“YVEA could conceivably double our system load in a three- to-five-year time frame if oil and gas exploration comes to fruition : and there are some areas where, if growth comes to be, we could have some infrastructure concerns. If we see high-rises being built at the (Steamboat Ski Area) mountain base, that could require us to redo a lot of our infrastructure.”
YVEA provides electricity for much of Northwest Colorado, from the top of Rabbit Ears Pass to Elk Springs west of Maybell in Moffat County, extending south into Eagle County along Colorado Highway 131, and north into Wyoming around the city of Baggs.
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While the town of Oak Creek is powered by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, YVEA serves local municipalities including Steamboat, Yampa, Phippsburg, Hayden and Craig.
“We have one of the largest service territories of any electric cooperative distribution in the state,” Chappell said. “But right now, we have no problem delivering electricity.”
Chappell said YVEA is projecting 620 new customers next year, for a total of 25,700 customers by the end of 2007.
“We’re not going to have any rate increase, but we are going to project a 2.5 percent increase in customer growth for 2007,” Chappell said.
Customer growth could increase by a much higher percentage in coming years. On Tuesday, Routt County Commissioners approved a drilling permit for oil exploration at a site seven miles east of Hayden.
The proposed 440,000-square-foot One Steamboat Place project, which includes 85 residential units on a site adjacent to the ski area’s gondola building, is an example of a potential large electricity need at the ski base. A buyer of the ski area, which is for sale, also could spark base area development.
“We’ve heard of some large hotels, or some intentions to demolish some of the older condos up there and rebuild them with larger structures,” Chappell said. “That has us concerned for the future of our ability to meet the demands for electricity in that area.”
A recent report says a power crunch already is taking place across Colorado. The Task Force on Reliable Electricity Infrastructure, created by state legislation last spring, released its findings in November.
“The basic problem is simple and straightforward: without enough transmission lines in the right places, the lights won’t stay on,” the report states. “Today the (Colorado) system is strained and, if current trends continue, there will not be adequate transmission to meet the needs. The Task Force concurs that action needs to be taken at a multitude of levels including changes in policy, legislation and in the electric utility industry’s relationship with state and local government.”
Routt County Comm-
issioner Doug Monger said electricity was a hot topic of discussion at last week’s Colorado Counties Inc., or CCI, convention.
Monger, CCI’s new president, said the state could soon need infrastructure for 4,900 additional megawatts of electricity. One megawatt serves 850 to 1,000 families.
“We talk a lot about water issues, but this is just as traumatic to the economy,” Monger said.
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