At its final hearing yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved Xcel Energy’s 15-year energy plan that would add renewables, retire coal operations and encourage carbon reductions.
As previously reported, Xcel Energy spent two years studying the viability of the long-range plan to power the Upper Midwest’s energy future that would effectively double the amount of wind and solar on its system and take significant strides to reduce coal with the retiring of Sherco units 1 and 2 in the mid-2020s.
According to Xcel, this Integrated Resource Plan will add enough new wind farms to power 750,000 homes and represents one of the largest wind energy proposals in the nation, bringing up to 1,500 MW of new wind power to Xcel Energy customers.
Xcel’s plan saw broad support from customers, including over 10,000 Minnesotans; the cities of Becker, Red Wing and Minneapolis; Sherburne County; clean energy organizations; and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a great decision for our customers. We can now move forward with our plan to transform our energy fleet and lead the industry in delivering cleaner energy at a cost-effective price,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “This outcome allows us to invest even more in wind, giving customers more renewable energy options while continuing to ensure reliable service and support for our communities by advancing the replacement energy generation at our Sherburne County plant.”
Specifically, the PUC unanimously approved the following:
- Retiring Sherco 2 and 1 in 2023 and 2026, respectively, and a process to identify approximately 750 MW of intermediate capacity replacement resources for 2026 that consider existing location and grid reliability needs;
- Adding at least 1,000 MW of cost-effective wind resources by 2019;
- Adding at least 650 MW of solar by 2021 through community solar gardens or other cost-effective solar;
- Saving no less than 400 MW through demand response;
- Considering technical and economic achievability of 1,000 MW of demand response in the next resource plan;
- Meeting Minnesota’s goal of 1.5% annual energy savings through 2030 and investigating the cost-effectiveness of acquiring additional energy savings through a competitive bidding process;
- In the next resource plan, describing possible scenarios for cost-effective and orderly retirement of its coal and nuclear fleet reaching the end of its life, including Sherco, King, Monticello and Prairie Island; and
- Xcel Energy’s next 15-year energy plan filing due Feb. 1, 2019.
Several energy agencies, including the Sierra Club, Fresh Energy, Wind on the Wires and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), released comments on the plan, applauding its efforts.
“The state approved the lowest-cost plan – affordable, reliable, low carbon – in approving Xcel’s proposal to replace coal with clean energy. All Xcel customers will benefit from this clean pathway forward,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy.
“Today’s decision is huge for our health and Minnesota’s clean air and water, climate, and economy. It also answers the 10,000 Minnesotans who submitted comments in support of this responsible transition beyond coal to wind, solar and more energy savings,” said Rose Thelen, a Sierra Club community leader from Clearwater, Minn.
“Getting this much coal out of our electricity system is going to be a great thing for Minnesotans. I’m extremely pleased with the PUC’s decision because it recognizes the importance of moving off of coal as quickly as possible for our health, our climate and our economy, and we can start planning right now for this major transition,” said Leigh Currie, MCEA’s energy program director and staff attorney, who represented clean energy interests at the PUC.
“The investments that Xcel is proposing in clean, renewable energy as a component of this resource plan are nation-leading,” said Wind on the Wires Executive Director Beth Soholt. “We are pleased to see the commission recognize the benefits of Xcel’s proposed near-term investments in wind, which we are confident will provide long-term benefits for their customers and drive new opportunities for the growing clean energy economy in greater Minnesota.”