Fresh Energy statement: historic proposal on future coal plant closures

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Smokestack at Sherco coal plant in Becker, Minnesota

On May 20, 2019, Fresh Energy, along with a coalition of clean energy groups, including the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Clean Grid Alliance, and the Center for Energy and Environment, announced our support for a major consensus proposal which includes Xcel Energy’s purchase of the existing Mankato Energy Center and early closure of the utility’s coal plant fleet. The agreement also includes the Laborers International Union of North America Minnesota.

This forward-thinking proposal details provisions for early coal plant closures, which would dramatically accelerate carbon reductions throughout our state and effectively move Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest electric utility, completely out of the coal business. With early closure dates on the calendar for the last remaining coal power plants in Xcel’s Upper Midwest portfolio, the utility—which has historically been heavily invested in coal-powered electricity generation—will now make significant progress toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Specifically, the proposal suggests the following:

  • Planning for the retirement of the Allen S. King coal power plant in Bayport, Minnesota by 2028 and the retirement of the Sherco 3 coal-fired generator in Becker, Minnesota by 2030.
  • Reducing coal use at the Sherco 2 coal-fired generator through seasonal operation of the plant until the plant retires in 2023.
  • Adding at least 3,000 megawatts of solar power to Xcel’s system by 2030
  • Agreeing to consider local job impacts and maximize the use of local labor in these solar projects
  • Committing to an historic amount of energy efficiency projects

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will now review the proposal to make the final decision on whether the plan complies with Minnesota laws, protects ratepayers, and is in the public interest.

Fresh Energy’s Executive Director, Michael Noble, released the following in response:

“Today’s proposal from Xcel Energy to accelerate its transition from coal to clean renewable solutions like wind and solar is a landmark step for the company, our state and our climate. We look forward to working with all parties to ensure this transition results in good family supporting jobs and a clean energy economy that works for all Minnesotans.”

Access full joint press release here.

Separately, this afternoon Xcel Energy will release its draft Integrated Resource Plan, which serves a roadmap for how Xcel will evolve its electricity system to serve its Minnesota customers through 2034. The draft plan will examine foreseeable future resources related to power plants, managing consumer demand for energy, adding wind, solar, and battery storage, and planning for electrifying more of the economy. More simply put, the plan seeks to answer one, primary question: How will Xcel Energy meet future electricity needs?

Fresh Energy has been hard at work to ensure that clean energy is center to the proposed plan—and that achieving deep reductions in carbon is prioritized. We will dig into the technical details of the draft with several key questions in mind: Does the plan address energy access and equity issues?  What modeling is Xcel using to predict future electricity needs? What is the role of renewables in that modeling? And what is the future of nuclear power for Xcel? Fresh Energy will be a lead technical and policy expert working to secure the best possible plan for the future of Minnesota. Stay tuned for details and opportunities to make your voice heard as this important plan moves through the regulatory process over the coming months.