Xcel Energy sets course for coal-free, renewable-heavy future

This week, Xcel Energy announced plans to retire its last two coal plants in the Upper Midwest a decade earlier than scheduled. The acceleration of the coal closures is part of the company’s clean energy transition that includes expanding wind and solar, using natural gas and operating its Monticello nuclear plant until at least 2040. 

These plans are part of the proposed Upper Midwest Energy Plan, which the company will submit for approval to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on July 1. If approved, the plan would lead to a more than 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions in the region by 2030, compared to 2005, a key stepping stone toward the company achieving its vision to provide customers 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.
 Milestones in the company’s transition include:

  • 2022 – Completion of the company’s largest-ever wind expansion, adding 1,850 MW of wind. At that point, more than 30 percent of customers’ energy in the Upper Midwest will come from wind.
  • 2030 – More than 50 percent of Xcel’s customers energy in the region will be from renewables, as the transition continues with:
    • Closure in 2030 of our final coal plant in the region, the Sherco 3 plant, following the closure of the Allen S. King goal plant in 2028.
    • A major expansion of solar energy, with more than 3,000 MW of new universal solar added by 2030.

“This is a significant step forward as we are on track to reduce carbon emissions more than 80 percent by 2030 and transform the way we deliver energy to our customers,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy – Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Agreement with coalition of groups
 While the company prepared its long-term plan, it also worked closely with a coalition of groups, including the Minnesota Center for Environmental Diversity, LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota, Fresh Energy and others, on an agreement to close its two remaining coal plants in the region. Additional elements of the agreement include increased commitment to solar energy, energy efficiency, consideration of local job impacts in connection with future renewable additions, and purchasing a natural gas plant, the Mankato Energy Center.   

“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,” said Michael Noble, Executive Director of Fresh Energy.

Need to determine the right generation mix for your utility? Come to POWERGEN International, set for New Orleans, November 19-21, 2019. Learn about the event’s educational tracks here
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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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