Partnering with Great River Energy on our path to electrify the economy

As a utility with an energy mix that’s more than 70 percent coal, GRE’s leadership took the courageous step to seek out external stakeholders for deep engagement and advice. It conducted a process with the Great Plains Institute to “hear all the voices”, such as its largest industrial customers, lenders, regulators, and advocates (including me) seeking to reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Based in part on those conversations, Great River Energy began to make very strategic shifts in their business, resulting in at least six big decisions over the past several years that Fresh Energy applauds as leadership worthy of national recognition.

Farmer holding kid

Property rights protected by Minnesota regulators

Today, Minnesota regulators ruled in favor of consumers and their property rights when it comes to generating their own solar power. The issue at hand was a customer complaint brought to the Public Utilities Commission after the customer felt he was denied his rights to be compensated for generating his own energy under Minnesota law. The customer’s utility – Minnesota Valley Light and Power Association in Montevideo – had attempted to pay nothing for a significant amount of electricity and other system benefits his solar system would provide back to the grid.

How the historic decision to transform Xcel Energy’s electricity was made

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.

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously approves Xcel’s 15-year plan

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.