This summer, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to adopt a value of solar (VOS) tariff. This methodology, in contrast with net metering for solar generation, has a 25-year bill credit schedule rather than simply mirroring the retail rate as it fluctuates over time. While factoring in avoided cost may be a new idea for solar, factoring in the value of avoided cost has been used to analyze energy efficiency programs for over 40 years.
Today, Minnesota Power based in Duluth announced their decision to retire two older coal-burning power plants, Boswell 1 and 2 in Cohasset, MN, near Grand Rapids, by the end of 2018. Fresh Energy and our clean energy partners advocated that these units appear to be no longer economic to run, with cleaner energy available and cheaper. Regulators at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on June 9, 2016 evaluated the economics of running these older units with needed additional pollution controls, compared to other cleaner, cheaper options for meeting energy needs, and the PUC agreed with us.
Working directly with Xcel and with our “Clean Energy Organizations”, or CEO, partnership, Fresh Energy used for the first time in Minnesota the same utility inputs and modeling Xcel uses. We analyzed options for closing the Sherco 1 and 2 coal plants and replacing them with vast amounts of cost-effective energy efficiency, wind, and solar power. Our independent analysis demonstrated that Xcel’s cheapest course of action—and the lowest in carbon—was the retirement and replacement of these two units, which are the biggest sources of global warming pollution in the Upper Midwest. Xcel agreed with our analysis, and completely revised its 15-year plan to reflect those economic opportunities. Fresh Energy applauds the unanimous Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decision to modify and approve Xcel’s 15-year Resource Plan as the affordable, reliable, and clean path forward for Minnesota customers.
Today, the Public Utilities Commission held its final hearing and unanimously approved with modifications Xcel Energy’s 15-year energy plan (Integrated Resource Plan). After two years of rigorous study, Xcel Energy proposed a Midwest-leading energy plan for the next 15 years – doubling the amount of wind and solar on its system and taking significant strides to reduce coal with the retiring of Sherco units 1 and 2 in the mid-2020s. Xcel’s proposed energy plan saw broad support from customers, including over 10,000 Minnesotans; cities of Becker, Red Wing, and Minneapolis; Sherburne County; clean energy organizations, and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
This week Minnesota Public Radio released a report describing how real estate company Madison Equities is overhauling three of their large downtown St. Paul buildings. The most visible upgrade will be the replacing the neon lighting on the iconic First National Bank Building with LED lighting. This is part of a comprehensive $12.5 million retrofit project resulting in a 40 percent reduction in energy use between the three properties. And while the end result of this project will mean big savings, it actually started with a small decision – to benchmark how much energy the buildings were using in the first place.
Fresh Energy was proud to sponsor a net zero home included in the 2016 AIA Minnesota’s Homes By Architects tour. Learn more about the home.