State regulators approve Xcel's plan to shut down Becker coal-fired plants

Back to All News

State regulators approve Xcel's plan to shut down Becker coal-fired plants

October 13, 2016

Minnesota utility regulators Thursday approved Xcel Energy’s plans to shut down its big coal-fired generators in Becker by 2026, a move that will eventually eliminate the state’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

They also directed Xcel to submit a plan for replacing a big chunk of that lost coal generation at its Sherco plant. But the Public Utilities Commission didn’t approve Xcel’s solution of building a large gas-powered generation plant on the Sherco site, a partial power replacement.

Essentially, the PUC asked Xcel to look more closely at renewable energy alternatives — along with the gas plant — to help compensate for the loss of the Sherco coal plants. Plus, the commission told Xcel to consider more “demand side” management — for example, measures to reduce customer energy use.

“There’s a process we need to go through to make sure we are not missing something,” PUC Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said at an all-day meeting on Thursday.

A year ago, Xcel proposed closing its two wholly-owned Sherco coal generators — each of which can generate 682 megawatts of electricity — in 2023 and 2026. Built in the 1970s, they are Xcel’s two largest power plants in Minnesota.

As a partial replacement, Xcel proposed a new 786-megawatt “combined cycle” gas-fueled plant, which uses gas and steam turbines to produce electricity more efficiently than just gas alone. Natural gas-fired power plants emit about half as much greenhouse gases as those that run on coal.

The PUC Thursday found that based on Xcel’s review of its generation requirements — as well as the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s assessment — there will be a need for about 750 megawatts of power capacity when the second Sherco coal generator is closed.

Xcel took that finding to mean it’s on the right path with a new natural gas plant in Becker.

SOURCE:  Star Tribune

Related Information