Xcel Energy plans more wind, solar power and less coal — and sooner — in Minnesota

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Xcel Energy plans more wind, solar power and less coal — and sooner — in Minnesota

October 2, 2015

Xcel Energy said Friday that it will accelerate cuts in its Minnesota-region greenhouse gas emissions by increasing wind and solar power investment in this decade and replacing two big coal-burning generators with a natural gas-fired unit in the mid-2020s in Becker, Minn.

The plan, submitted to state regulators who could approve or reject it, would mean a 60 percent cut in the electric utility’s Upper Midwest carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Until now, Xcel had aimed for a 40 percent greenhouse gas reduction over that period.

Two of the three coal burners at the Sherco power plant in Becker would be retired in 2023 and 2026 under the plan announced Friday. That plant, Xcel’s largest in the region, is also the state’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. The two units, built in the 1970s, would be replaced by a new power plant fueled by natural gas, which emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, Xcel said.

“This is really a business decision about what we think is right for the future,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel’s Minnesota regional operations, in an interview. “For us the time to move is now. We think we benefit from certainty. It is the right time to focus on the future. I think it is what our customers want us to do.”

Environmental groups led by Fresh Energy, as well as the state Commerce Department had urged Xcel to consider earlier retirement of the Sherco units. Xcel had planned to keep them running, but at a lower pace, until 2030.

“It’s a great outcome for Minnesota,” said J. Drake Hamilton, Fresh Energy's science policy director, which advocates for cleaner energy. “These commitments directly follow the recommendations of climate scientists that we need to cut carbon emissions across our economy very much like what Xcel is proposing.”

SOURCE:  Star Tribune

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