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[Episode #92] – Financing Coal Plant Retirements

The coal power sector in the US is continuing to shrink due to poor economics, but this doesn’t mean we’re retiring coal fired power plants quickly enough to reduce carbon emissions at a rate that achieves our climate goals. So what’s the best way to get rid of coal plants before they reach the end of their expected lifespans, particularly while the Trump administration and the Republican party continue trying to find ways to keep coal plants open? Democratic state Representative Chris Hansen of Colorado has proposed a solution: Refinancing the debt that utilities still owe on their coal-fired plants with cheaper, public bonds, and then shutting down the plants. It’s an idea that would retire coal plants and reduce carbon emissions, save utility customers money, create better investment opportunities for the utilities, and replace that power with cheaper, clean, solar and wind power. Everybody wins! It’s a powerful idea whose time may have come in Colorado, where fossil fuels still make up 78% of the state’s electricity mix, and major utilities in the state, like Xcel Energy, have declared their intention to transition to 100% clean power in the coming decades. Will Hansen’s bill have the right approach to help achieve those goals? We dive into all the important details in this episode and find out!


Representative Chris Hansen is a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, representing  District 6, in the east-central part of Denver. Chris’ academic achievements include a PhD in Economic Geography from Oxford University, a Research Fellowship at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Kansas State University, and an MS from MIT. Chris has been in the environmental and energy space for almost 20 years, working with renewable energy and electricity companies, as well as governments at every level, and has worked to bring more renewable power to poor, rural areas of India. In addition to serving the state of Colorado in the House of Representatives, Chris teaches at the University of Colorado and has served on numerous boards and organizations in the Denver area.

On Twitter: @HansenForCO

On the Web:  Chris Hansen’s web site

Recording date: February 25, 2019

Air date: April 3, 2019

Geek rating: 7