Today, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy announced an accelerated transition from coal energy to renewables, including 60 percent carbon emissions reductions by 2030, ceasing coal-fired generation at Sherco Units 2 and 1 in 2023 and 2026, respectively, and moving up in time substantial new renewable generation to 1,200 megawatts by 2020. Xcel’s proposal will preserve the reliability of the regional electricity system, include energy efficiency gains and pursuit of grid modernization, and ensure customer benefits.
The older two units at Xcel’s Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco) coal-burning power plant in Becker, Minnesota, are by far Minnesota’s largest source of carbon pollution. Xcel’s commitments follow the leadership of the Clean Energy Organizations, including Fresh Energy, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and Wind on the Wires, which used industry-standard analytical tools to demonstrate that a clean energy path for Xcel Energy, including the retirement of both Sherco units, is the lowest-cost option now for Minnesota.
For the first time in 2015, independent analysts had access to the same modelling software and data used by Xcel to develop its resource plan. The Clean Energy Organization’s analysis, filed this summer, showed that Xcel can reduce costs and cut harmful air and water pollution by retiring Sherco units 1 and 2 in the near term. “The analysis developed by the Clean Energy Organizations showed a clear, cost-effective path to a cleaner energy mix that no longer relies on Xcel’s oldest, dirtiest coal plants,” said Kevin Reuther, legal director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “It’s clear that Xcel now sees the benefits of this plan to its customers, and we look forward to working with the company to responsibly implement the retirement of these coal units.”
The Clean Energy Organizations will be working at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), as interveners in the Xcel Energy resource plan, to ensure that Xcel sticks to this timeline for Sherco 1 and 2 closure and the levels of clean, efficient energy development are on pace with the timelines announced today. Minnesotans are watching closely; yesterday, 11,000 comments in support of retiring these units were filed with the PUC. “Minnesotans and Governor Dayton have spoken loud and clear that it is time for a responsible transition beyond coal to clean energy,” said Alexis Boxer, Sierra Club organizer. “We must give the workers and the community time to transition, but it’s time to do what’s right for Minnesota, our children and our grandchildren.”
Xcel’s proposal includes advancing additions of substantial renewable energy generation, to have 1,200 megawatts in place by 2020. “Xcel Energy is the number one utility provider of wind energy in the nation and today’s announcement further underscores the company’s commitment to the growth of wind energy here in the Midwest,” said Beth Soholt, executive director, Wind on the Wires. “As other utilities and states decide how they will further reduce their carbon emissions, Xcel has positioned itself well to continue leading the region in this area, primarily through the development and purchasing of low-cost wind power.”
“Xcel’s coal transition proposal is nation-leading in cutting carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2030,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy. “Xcel’s commitments follow the science-based recommendations for the levels of global warming pollution reductions needed across our economy.”
Graphic credit: Xcel Energy