Businessman: Energy shortage at a 'crisis' level

Energy in America is no longer an issue, it is nearing a crisis, one Xcel Energy spokesman said.

"The term 'energy crisis' will enter our vocabulary very soon," Xcel spokesman Wade Haerle told the Moffat County Land Use Board at the group's monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Haerle wasn't speaking on behalf of Xcel at Tuesday's meeting, but as a businessman in the energy field.

He said as the demands on energy increase and prices continue to go up, energy companies will have to look for more-sustainable fuel sources to stay in business.

"By 2050, the world will be 50 percent renewable," Haerle said. "So you had better be 50 percent renewable by 2050 if you want to be in business."

Although consumers can expect more renewable fuels in the long run, Haerle said they can expect much higher prices for natural gas in the short term.

When he started with Xcel in the late 1990s, Haerle said he was told $5 a unit was a high price for natural gas. This winter, when people are relying on gas to heat their homes, he said the price could reach $15 a unit.

At his home in Grand Junction, Haerle said the bill from his employer will be about $500 a month.

But the high prices and increased demand eventually will lead to more renewable energy sources.

"Clean energy is what people want," Haerle said. "I don't think people mind paying a dollar or two more on their electric bill if it means they're going to have cleaner air."

But the technology for some clean energy, such as wind and solar energy, isn't at a point at which it is very profitable yet, Haerle said.

With wind power, the problem is that during the parts of the year when winds tend to be high, March, April and May, the demand for electricity is at its lowest point. But in the hot summer, when wind farms in Wyoming are at their lowest productivity levels, people using air conditioners drive up the demand for electricity.

The Western Slope and Northwest Colorado in particular would be a great place for renewable energy, particularly solar, Haerle said.

He also said he would love to see Colorado get the high-altitude coal gasification plant mandated by the recently signed federal energy bill, but he said other states will fight hard to get the plant, as well.

"The Western Slope is really becoming an energy Mecca," he said.

But the problem with the Western Slope is that the region lacks the energy-transmission capabilities to get energy to customers.

"I can't get that power to market," Haerle said.

Moffat County Natural Re----sources Director Jeff Comstock said he invited Haerle to speak to the Land Use Board because he wanted to discuss energy issues with someone who knew about them.

"Energy is a hot issue in Northwest Colorado, and we would love to hear from a variety of folks," Comstock said.

The Land Use Board meets the second Tuesday of every month at the courthouse. The meetings are open to the public.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com

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