DENVER — Imagine planning your next trip and finding that Delta was selling first-class seats for less than the cramped middle seats in the back of the plane.
So you fly first class to New York and walk into the best French restaurant, only to discover that every dish is cheaper than the burger and fries down the street. Waiter, bring the duck à l’orange!
Fanciful as that might sound, something a bit like it is happening right now in the world of electricity.
Xcel Energy is a utility company with millions of electric customers in the middle of the country, from Texas to Michigan. In booming Colorado, the company asked for proposals to construct big power plants using wind turbines and solar panels.
The bids have come in so low that the company will be able to build and operate the new plants for less money than it would have to pay just to keep running its old, coal-burning power plants.
You read that right: In parts of the country, wind and solar plants built from scratch now offer the cheapest power available, even counting old coal, which was long seen as unbeatable.