Missed opportunity for clean energy as gas plant bill moves forward

Left to right: Clean energy advocates Kevin Reuther of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy, Jessica Tritsch of Sierra Club, and Leigh Currie of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy on a tour of Sherco.

Today, Governor Dayton signed a bill into law that allows Xcel Energy to build a natural gas plant in Becker, Minnesota. Though Fresh Energy believes that the bill is a missed opportunity to pursue even greater investments in local clean energy sources like wind, solar, and energy efficiency, we are hopeful that Xcel will bring plans for the proposed plant to the Public Utilities Commission for careful review.

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.

Building energy footprints trending down

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.

J. Drake Hamilton meets President Obama in the White House

The President invited Fresh Energy’s science policy director, J. Drake Hamilton, to join him at a small group meeting in the White House prior to his historic announcement of the single greatest step the United States has taken thus far to combat climate change.