Energy security and climate resilience are two sides of the same coin. Energy security is a centerpiece of my campaign because I believe this is the most critical long-term issue facing Longmont. Without energy security, the cost of fuel and electricity tends to go up, inflation soars, and the economy withers. On this page, I will present my detailed analysis of the serious energy problem Longmont is expected to face in the coming years, and the solutions I propose.
Longmont's looming energy crunch is caused by the political decision made by local elected leaders, since 2018, to make Longmont's electricity supply 100% carbon-free and renewable by 2030, as a response to "climate emergency." Currently, Longmont's energy mix is around 50% to 60% coal on a typical day. Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) is the main electricity utility servicing Longmont, and PRPA is a nonprofit controlled by our region's mayors, who have directed PRPA at the board level to shut down all coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. PRPA has forecasted an "energy cliff" (my own phrase summing up this chart) coming in 2030 when coal is removed from the energy mix and energy supply is no longer sufficient to meet electricity demand:
Unfortunately for Longmont, it's no easy task to replace relatively cheap, abundant, and reliable coal for electricity generation. While PRPA is making slow progress at bringing new solar capacity online, it's not nearly enough to fill the projected energy gap. Meanwhile, since 2018, the City of Longmont simultaneously has not been leading by example quickly enough, at the scale needed, to make a successful transition to 100% carbon-free, renewable electricity by 2030. For the conversion away from coal to succeed, and for energy security to be preserved, Longmont must marshal city resources to meet PRPA halfway. In my analysis as a sustainability professional with close to two decades of experience and a master's degree in environmental leadership, there is little to no doubt we are going to hurtle over an imminent energy cliff, with soaring electricity prices and potential catastrophic blackouts, if we do not take serious local action to implement a cost-effective and technologically feasible plan to replace a substantial amount of the approximately 50% to 60% of Longmont's current energy mix coming from coal when our region's 280 MW coal-fired power plant shuts down as scheduled in 2030.
Let's be clear: Longmont is virtually certain to plunge over the artificially induced energy cliff in 2030 if urgent action is not taken. As of 2023, PRPA has not presented a publicly available forecast detailing exactly how the utility will fill the energy gap created when coal is retired in 2030. (I have submitted a public records request to see PRPA's future energy mix forecast and I'm still waiting to receive their response.)
In contrast with Longmont's current city leadership not only failing to act in preparation for this energy crisis but also making the problem worse in some ways, my wealth-building plan for Longmont's energy security is a comprehensive framework to elevate our city to 80% carbon-free electricity by 2028 if successfully implemented. The reason why I focus on the goal of 80% carbon-free electricity by 2028 is because I think this is practical to achieve but also a prerequisite for reaching the already established goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030. But my plan comes with a vitally important safety valve: If Longmont does not attain the 80% carbon-free electricity goal by 2028, then the goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 will not be attainable and should be delayed until 2035 or 2040 for the health and safety of all Longmont residents, especially children and elders. We cannot tolerate a possible future scenario where poor planning or failed implementation leads to energy blackouts.
My energy security plan for 80% carbon-free electricity by 2028 is ambitious and not guaranteed to be achieved, yet pragmatic and achievable. My plan creates hundreds of good-paying jobs, including a civilian climate and conservation corps for Longmont's talented and industrious youth. My plan establishes a solar credit union for "Made In America" solar panels, where anyone in good standing with the utility automatically qualifies: No credit. No income verification. 0 down. And cheaper payments than a normal monthly electricity bill. My plan will create distributed solar power production and state-of-the-art battery storage for 10,000+ Longmont homes by 2030, bringing more affordable electricity to Longmont residents.
My energy security plan rests on two main pillars. First, building on the nationally acclaimed success of Longmont's community-owned fiber "NextLight" Internet rollout, the City of Longmont will embark on a historic endeavor to bring solar panels to thousands of buildings across the city.
How will this be accomplished? In my first weeks serving as Mayor, I will bring forward a "Request For Proposals" (RFP) inviting financial services partners to join with Longmont Power & Communications (LPC) in creating the financial management framework for a new solar credit union geared toward rapid distributed solarization of Longmont's residential housing stock. At the same time, I will bring forward another RFP for solar installers and solar panel manufacturers to participate in the project. Based on the financial and solar industry responses submitted, plus independent market research, LPC will then be able to present a feasibility plan and cost estimate to City Council for Longmont's adoption of widespread distributed residential solar power, including a hypothetical range of rate structures for electricity consumers. Though more study is needed, bringing this first initiative to completion could, conservatively, I estimate provide as much as 40% or more of Longmont's power consumption on bright solar days.
Second, the City of Longmont owns more than 1,000 acres of non-riparian open space land that I believe could be ideal for solar and possibly wind energy development. Located in Weld County east and south of Union Reservoir, these plots of land were acquired as open space buffer zones and are currently leased for agriculture. As Mayor, I will bring forward legislation directing Longmont Power & Communications and the city's Public Works & Natural Resources Department to conduct a feasibility study analyzing the potential use of Longmont open space land for solar and wind energy, including agrivoltaics. Colorado is already gaining recognition as a world leader in agrivoltaics, with impressive projects like Jack's Solar Garden, located in the Longmont area, modeling the co-location of solar power and regenerative agriculture. As a possible partial funding source, Colorado's state legislature recently authorized funding to support agrivoltaics development. If this second initiative is proven feasible, it will comprise another major addition to Longmont's renewable electricity generation portfolio, bringing Longmont close to 80% or more carbon-free electricity by 2028.
Energy efficiency and demand-side management measures can provide the remaining balance to reach 80%. While my energy security plan is realistic and achievable, and provides a starting point for serious conversation about Longmont's uncertain energy future, I understand the challenges and risks it entails, including intermittency of solar and wind energy supply. My vision for 80% carbon-free electricity by 2028 is necessary but not sufficient for reaching 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030. In terms of the preconditions required to reach full 100% carbon-free electricity, PRPA has published its own assessment of the advancements that must occur:
My vision for energy security is predicated on the bold idea that the City of Longmont must lead the way to energy security and climate resilience. Simply waiting for PRPA, a small nonprofit utility with a non-professional and political board of directors, to figure out the path forward, is not a viable strategy for Longmont. In many ways, the City of Longmont has more resources at our disposal than PRPA itself. Longmont should bring our city's resources to the table and collaborate with PRPA to chart the best path forward. This is precisely what my bold energy security plan is designed to achieve.
I believe that the City's electricity transformation should not be imposed on the public by fiat but should instead be brought forward to the voters for the approval of a citywide vote. I promise to bring forward a comprehensive, responsible, wealth-building plan to place before the voters on the 2024 ballot.
As this campaign moves forward, I look forward to gaining input, advice, and endorsements from energy professionals, including ideas for how my energy security plan's feasibility may be further strengthened and streamlined. I hope to transparently update this page below with endorsements and other meaningful, relevant comments from experts as I receive them.
It's important to emphasize again that my plan comes with a vitally important safety valve: If Longmont does not attain the 80% carbon-free electricity goal by 2028, then the goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 will not be attainable and should be delayed until 2035 or 2040 for the health and safety of all Longmont residents, especially children and elders. We cannot tolerate a possible future scenario where poor planning or failed implementation leads to energy blackouts. Longmont must retain the ability to respond flexibly to real world conditions and be able to change course if the ambitious targets we set are not being met, while at the same time doing our best to achieve greatness. This is the truly sustainable path forward to a future of freedom and prosperity for all.
Thank you for the consideration of voting for me to serve as your Mayor.
Life, Liberty and Justice for All,
~ Ethan Augreen