What Coal Means To Colorado

Energy Facts Weekly

What Coal Means To Colorado

“Our nation’s electric generation, transmission and distribution system is the most complex machine ever built by man. It makes possible virtually every aspect of our modern daily lives: it helps to keep our families safe and secure in their homes; it powers our computers, phones and televisions; it makes modern education possible; and it makes our economy the envy of the world. In short, our electricity system provides the very foundation for our standard of living, nationwide and in Colorado.”
    — Colorado Energy Forum [1]

Percentage fo Colorado's Electricity Supply by Each Fuel in 2008

Electricity consumption in Colorado has grown 70% since 1990 and will continue to increase over the coming decades. Coal has been, is now, and will continue to be the primary source of supply to meet this growing demand — and for good reason.  A full 65 percent of Colorado’s electricity is supplied by coal. This moderately priced fuel provides Colorado with reliable electricity at affordable prices. If the state did not have access to this coal, the reduction in electricity supply would be staggering.

Colorado’s Electricity Supply With and Without Coal

The sheer scale of coal’s contribution to Colorado’s electric power supply system would make it virtually impossible to replace. For example, it would take at least six nuclear power plants to produce this much power. We have not built even a single nuclear plant in the entire nation for decades.

If even a portion of coal supply was not available to Colorado, the implications for consumers would be highly adverse. For example, almost 40 percent of the coal used in Colorado to produce electric power comes from surface mines in the Powder River Basin (PRB). Researchers at the University of Wyoming have calculated the impacts on Colorado’s electric rates if PRB coal was not available for generating power.[2]

Colorado’s Electric Rates with and without Powder River Basin Surface Coal


[1] “The Basics of Electricity in Colorado:  What Makes the Lights Go On?,” Colorado Energy Forum, April 2006 , http://www.colorado.gov/energy/images/uploads/pdfs/Electricity_Basics.pdf
[2] Powder River Basin Coal , School of Energy Resources, University of Wyoming, 2009, http://www.wmaminelife.com/coal/prbc/Presentation/PRB_Presentation_oap_03_files/frame.htm

Note:  Energy data based on files from EIA at http://www.eia.doe.gov/


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