AZTEC — Cindy Crane describes herself as passionate leader who sets a high bar and likes to be on the ground with the people who are working to make projects a reality.
She will be bringing those traits to Enchant Energy as she steps into the role of CEO, which has been held by co-founder Jason Selch for the past few years. Selch is moving into the role of board chairman. Lawrence Heller, who previously served as board chairman, has stepped down from the board but remains the company’s largest shareholder.
Crane recently retired from her role as CEO and president of Rocky Mountain Power, which is part of PacifiCorp Energy, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary. Crane has 28 years of experience in the electric power industry. Crane is also the chairwoman of the Energy Resources Council, which oversees the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming.
Crane is not a stranger to coal-fired generation. She previously served as vice president of Interwest Mining and Fuels for PacifiCorp, where she was responsible for the Energy West and Bridger Coal mine operations as well as acquiring the coal supply for the fleet of coal-fired power plants. She is also familiar with carbon capture technology through her work at both PacifiCorp and the Energy Resources Council.
Crane said her biggest strengths are identifying solutions to address issues, getting things done and delivering on those things.
“I think that somebody who focuses and can make sure that we’re bringing parties together and we’re all getting to where we need to get to, and delivers, is what you need in order to make this real for the jobs and the community and the economy,” Crane said. “That is a core strength of mine and I have done it over and over in my career.”
While at the helm of Rocky Mountain Power, the utility increased the amount of renewable energy on its grid.
Crane said prior to stepping into the role of CEO of Rocky Mountain Power she helped develop PacifiCorp’s renewable energy strategy. This came as she served as the vice president of strategy and division services.
“Enchant Energy is delighted to add such an accomplished leader and executive to its management team,” Selch said in a press release. “Her extensive background in energy project development, finance and technology are a great match to lead this company.
Crane will guide Enchant Energy through the process of acquiring the San Juan Generating Station and retrofitting it with carbon capture technology. One of her early tasks will be reaching out to the current power plant owners that do not intend to keep utilizing the plant after 2022.
Crane describes CCUS as a solution to maintain jobs and rural investments while also providing reliable, low-carbon baseload power.
She said the low-carbon electricity is important to addressing the climate crisis, and Crane opposes focusing solely on renewable generation sources like wind and solar.
“This is about decarbonization,” she said.
She highlighted that for decades the coal-fired power plants have provided reliable and affordable power and she said these generating stations still have a role to play in the future, albeit one that relies on carbon capture technology.
Carbon dioxide is the largest contributor to climate change. Carbon capture proponents say the technology can remove 95% of the carbon dioxide from the emissions, making it cleaner than the natural gas generating stations that are often used to replace coal-fired power plants.
However, carbon capture technology has been slow to be deployed. Crane credits that to the lack of federal incentives. She said the 45Q tax credit, which recently had draft guidance documents released by the U.S. Department of Treasury, could provide that incentive to develop the technology further.
If successful, the San Juan Generating Station will be the largest application of the technology in the electric utility industry. But critics warn that costs could be higher than anticipated and that it may not meet the 95% capture rate.
Crane acknowledged that the technology has faced opposition.
“You have to work with people to really understand their motivations,” she said.
However, she said she believes opponents and proponents can find a common ground and that carbon capture technology is an important component of environmental stewardship and addressing the climate crisis.
Enchant Energy has consistently touted the project as a job-saving measure. In 2017, Public Service Company of New Mexico announced plans to shutter the San Juan Generating Station earlier than previously intended. PNM is the largest owner of the power plant, but the City of Farmington owns a share and has the right to acquire the full facility at zero cost. Farmington is the sole owner of the power plant that wants to continue its operations.
“The City of Farmington is pleased to see Enchant Energy furthering their commitment to the success of the carbon capture project at San Juan Generating Station by building out its leadership team with an executive who brings experience and expertise in the energy field,” said Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett in a press release.
The San Juan Generating Station provides hundreds of jobs and is one of the largest property tax payers in the Central Consolidated School District boundaries.
“What makes this such a unique and special opportunity really is the opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of 450-plus direct jobs employees as well as the indirect jobs that are upwards in the 1,500 range,” Crane said. “That is a huge, huge motivation factor – to really be able to help these communities and these people with jobs and economic development. That will be a focus that we will not lose sight of and will remain at the front of what dives us to be successful here.”