Xcel Energy’s announcement on reducing gas emissions warrants praise; will require careful implementation

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Fresh Energy, Western Resource Advocates, and RMI today commented on Xcel Energy’s announced intent to reduce emissions from its fossil-fuel gas distribution utility business. The groups praised the utility’s establishment of a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At the same time, they also urged Xcel to have greater ambition in achieving direct emission reductions and noted concern about proper greenhouse gas emissions accounting, as well as the risk that continued investment in the distribution pipeline system could increase long-term costs for customers. 

“Xcel Energy’s announcement that it will set goals to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its gas business is commendable, but it is just a start,” said Joe Dammel, Director of Gas Decarbonization at Fresh Energy. “In order to achieve the level of carbon reductions supported by the latest science and to meet Minnesota’s state-level goals, Xcel and Minnesota’s other gas utilities must commit to scalable, cost-effective, and equitable solutions to make the transition away from the fossil gas system as we know it. What’s more, the decisions we make today about the gas system will have far-reaching consequences. 2050 may seem like the distant future, but under the current regulatory treatment, a pipe installed today could still be in service and ratepayers could still be paying for it. In order to meet our climate goals, the gas system must decarbonize by mid-century, which is why it’s crucial we focus now on what the future of gas will look like and make the right investments.” 

“We commend Xcel for sharing this plan well in advance of regulatory deadlines and creating the space and opportunity to engage with their customers and local stakeholders on the details of their plan ahead of formal proceedings,” said RMI’s Leia Guccione, Managing Director of Carbon-Free Electricity. “We look forward to the opportunity of working with Xcel and other local stakeholders to further expand the role that enhanced energy efficiency and electrification can play in reducing emissions in our built environment.” 

“Xcel Energy’s announcement today establishes an important goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its gas distribution utility business that delivers fossil-fuel methane gas to homes and businesses for uses like heating and cooking,” said Erin Overturf, director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “The announcement demonstrates the power of state-level policy change to drive climate ambition and constitutes a valuable recognition of the transition needed in this sector to address the causes of climate change. Because the way the transition is undertaken will have significant environmental, cost, equity, public health, and greenhouse gas accounting ramifications, we intend to work with Xcel and other stakeholders to ensure forthcoming implementation plans will secure real and permanent greenhouse gas reductions.” 

RMI’s Cate Hight added, “RMI supports Xcel’s desire to reduce its methane intensity by sourcing certified natural gas from transparent, independent certification programs such as MiQ and carefully monitoring methane emissions in its distribution system. RMI will continue to work with regulators to ensure that utilities can appropriately recover costs for delivering gas with a lower climate impact to their consumers.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of global scientists, noted in its recent major report that we have a small window of time to act and take steps that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. The report noted that we must make “strong, rapid, and sustained reductions” in methane emissions in the near term in addition to slashing carbon emissions, because methane is a potent greenhouse gas.  

Media Contacts:

Julianne Basinger, Western Resource Advocates, julianne.basinger@westernresources.org
Jo Olson, Fresh Energy, olson@fresh-energy.org
Kiley Kroh, RMI, kkroh@rmi.org

Fresh Energy is speeding Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy, which will ensure that our region enjoys good health, a vibrant economy, and thriving communities today and for generations to come. From putting Minnesota on the pathway to being a national renewable energy leader to promoting clean transportation options for our growing economy, Fresh Energy has been an essential partner in helping the region develop efficient, cost-effective, and inclusive energy programming. For more information, visit www.fresh-energy.org and or follow @FreshEnergy. 

Western Resource Advocates provides on the ground solutions to climate change. WRA works with policymakers and other advocates to advance clean energy; protect air, land, water, and wildlife; and sustain the lives and livelihoods of the West. For more information, visit westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @wradv and #ProtectTheWest. 

RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.