Latest News

CenterPoint Energy recognized with the 2017 Southern Gas Association (SGA) Community Service award

May 23, 2017 – CenterPoint Energy has been honored with the 2017 Southern Gas Association (SGA) Community Service award, recognizing the company's natural gas safety education website, Safe and Smart with Buddy Blue Flame™. The Community Service Award is given annually to recognize the SGA member company with the most effective service or outreach program that improves the community.

The award was presented at the organization's recent Management Conference in Baltimore, MD. Some of the requirements include: problem solving through a specific action, decision, program or initiative with definite, substantive results during the eligible calendar year."The Community Service Awards program offered CenterPoint Energy an opportunity to share our new educational website, Safe and Smart with Buddy Blue Flame," said Diane M. Englet, senior director of Corporate Community Relations. "This natural gas safety education website is part of CenterPoint Energy's ongoing efforts to encourage people of all ages to focus on safety." Read more

ALLETE/Minnesota Power recognized for support of service members and families

ALLETE/Minnesota Power was honored by the state Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve at an awards ceremony May 8 in Minneapolis. The “Above and Beyond Award” recognizes employers who offer employees who are members of the National Guard and Reserve additional benefits above the legal requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

The ESGR, a Department of Defense program established to promote cooperation between service members and their civilian employers, honored 27 employers with the prestigious award. Kathryn Koch, a member of Minnesota Power’s Yellow Ribbon Steering Committee, accepted the award on behalf of the company.

“It was truly an honor to accept this award on behalf of Minnesota Power and be included with such an esteemed group of employers,” Koch said. “To know that it was a grassroots effort of our employees that led to this award makes it that much more meaningful.”

Employers must be nominated by a currently serving military member and Minnesota Power was nominated by Jennifer Peterson, a captain in the Minnesota Air National Guard and a member of the Yellow Ribbon Steering Committee. Read more

Minnesota leads the Midwest in clean energy report

While Northeast and West Coast states led a recent clean energy ranking of U.S. states, recent advances helped push Minnesota into the top ten.

Minnesota ranked 9th in Clean Edge’s eighth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, the only Midwest state in the top ten. Illinois and Michigan ranked 11th and 13th respectively, while the remaining Midwest states were in the bottom half of the rankings.

“Like every region, the states in the Midwest have their strengths and weaknesses,” said Andrew Rector, market analyst for Clean Edge.

Michigan has a good record of venture capital patents, a legacy of having Detroit and its expertise in patent law, while Illinois is a national leader in green buildings and has a strong venture capital market, Rector said.

Wisconsin (which ranked 29th) has a thriving biomass generation sector and more natural gas vehicles than average, he said. Ohio (28th) doesn’t have much wind or solar now, Rector said, but that could change with a new wind farm being developed by Amazon and the reinstatement of its renewable portfolio standard.

The RPS “signals that Ohio is committed to more investments in clean energy, and that’s reflected in its five-spot jump in the Index’s Policy category rankings,” he said.

Last year wind and solar represented 61 percent of all new generation capacity in the country, Clean Edge reported.

Three Midwest states — Iowa (26th overall), Kansas (45th) and South Dakota (40th) — receive more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind power.

States receiving more than 20 percent from renewable energy include North Dakota (50th) and Oklahoma, from wind, and California, from a mix of generation.

While the Midwest states which have strong wind power led the country in that category they did not score all that well in other areas to be national leaders.

Minnesota’s standing

The report praised Minnesota for having the “most notable increase” of nine points, enough to move the state up six places. Minnesota’s transportation subcategory “is an emerging strength,” and firms saw venture capital worth $57 million come in 2016, the report said.

The University of Minnesota was recognized for having a top-ranked green master’s program and the state won praise for a clean tech accelerator. Read more

Minnesota regulators approve historic Xcel Energy rate increase of $244 million

Minnesota utility regulators Thursday approved a landmark four-year rate deal for Xcel Energy that will ultimately raise residential rates by 10.6 percent — though a big chunk of that increase is already in place.

The rate case is uncommon in two ways. It’s the first multiyear rate plan in Minnesota for investor-owned Xcel, made possible by a 2015 state law change.

Also, it resulted from a settlement between Xcel and several parties it might normally end up fighting — particularly the Minnesota Department of Commerce, one of two Minnesota agencies commissioned with looking out for the public interest in rate cases.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel’s Minnesota operations. “We think achieving a settlement with a diverse group of customers and the Department of Commerce is an important milestone for us.”

The deal approved by the state Public Utilities Commission is retroactive to 2016 and follows five consecutive years of rate hikes for Minneapolis-based Xcel, Minnesota’s largest utility.

Xcel’s residential consumers already have fielded the biggest financial blow from the multiyear plan, which Xcel filed in November 2015. The PUC granted an interim rate hike of 5.5 percent for 2016, and the final rate structure approved Thursday called for a nearly 6 percent residential rate increase in 2016.

Beyond that, residential rates will rise 2.7 percent this year — or about $30 annually for the average residential customer. Residential rates will stay flat in 2018, as will rates for Xcel’s business and municipal customers. In 2019, residential rates will go up 1.9 percent, costing the average consumer about $12 a year, according to Xcel.

Xcel’s overall rate increase — including business and government customers — is 8.3 percent, or $244 million, as approved by the PUC. Rates for most commercial and industrial customers will rise 6.9 percent over four years, while street lighting rates will climb 13.1 percent. Read more

Ten K Solar 'discontinuing' current operation

Ten K Solar, a Bloomington-based solar panel manufacturer, said Wednesday it will be "discontinuing its current operation" and terminating many of the services it formerly provided to customers.

The announcement comes less than a year after the company attracted its largest single equity investment — $25 million from a group led by Goldman Sachs. But Ten K Solar, which once employed 200 and reached at least $50 million in annual sales, said in a statement that the company has been caught in an industry downturn.

"The most recent 18 months have proven to be difficult for companies in the solar industry," the statement said. "Ten K Solar has not been immune to those difficulties as significant price pressures and scale have proved a significant barrier to profitable growth." Read more

Minnesota sees an 80 percent jump in solar energy capacity this year

Minnesota's solar energy capacity rose 80 percent during 2017's first three months, the second consecutive quarter of leapfrog growth as several major solar arrays were switched on.

The state had 447 megawatts of solar production capacity at the end of the first quarter, a far cry from 37 megawatts at the end of 2015, according to data released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. A megawatt is 1 million watts, enough electricity to power 140 homes.

Altogether, Minnesota's solar arrays have the capacity to crank out about as much power as one of Xcel Energy's larger natural gas-fired plants — at least when it's sunny. Read more

U.S. wind industry has biggest first-quarter installs in eight years

The U.S. wind industry installed 2,000 megawatts of capacity in the first quarter, nearly four times the amount installed in the same period last year, as developers race to capture a lucrative federal tax credit that is gradually being phased out.

It was the industry's biggest first quarter since 2009, the American Wind Energy Association said in its first-quarter market report released on Tuesday.

Project construction and development activity is also robust, as the federal production tax credit for wind projects does not expire until 2020. Starting this year, however, the credit's value will drop by 20 percent each year for projects that start construction from 2017 through 2019.

There are 9,025 MW of wind projects under construction and an additional 11,952 MW in advanced development, AWEA said. Read more

Minnesota stands “near the top” of the country for green-building practices

More than 300 building professionals will gather Wednesday in St. Paul to learn about sustainable construction at the sixth annual Impact Conference sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the United States Green Building Council.

The one-day conference at the St. Paul RiverCentre will feature 12 sessions and 24 speakers, including the council’s president and CEO, Mahesh Ramanujam, and arctic explorer and climate-change activist Will Steger. Sessions will cover green-building certification, district energy, health and well-being, solar energy, zero waste and other topics.

The Washington, D.C.-based council is, of course, famous for having created a certification process called LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. More than 90,000 buildings have been certified around the world. Minnesota has 504 LEED-certified buildings, most of them in the Twin Cities.

During his presentation, Ramanujam will address how LEED is expanding beyond individual buildings to cover communities and cities, an effort being assisted by the introduction of a new software platform developed by the council.

Thanks to state building code guidelines and a strong local council, Minnesota stands “near the top” of the country in the knowledge of green buildings, said Rick Carter, a past president of the local chapter and senior vice president at Minneapolis-based LHB Inc. The Impact Conference is a testament to the draw sustainable building holds in Minnesota, he said. Read more

Clean, renewable energy arrives at State Capitol Complex in May

Beginning May 16, the State Capitol Complex will be powered by clean, renewable energy. In a pilot program between the State and Xcel Energy, 33 percent of the base energy used at the State Capitol Complex will come from renewable sources.

“Renewable energy is good for our health, environment, and economy. Minnesota’s clean energy industry supports 15,000 jobs across the state,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Our Administration is committed to ensuring that state government does its part to lead by example. I thank Xcel Energy for collaborating with us to bring renewable energy to the State Capitol complex, and supporting the development of a more resilient, sustainable energy future for Minnesota.”

The agreement between the State and Xcel Energy, originally announced last fall by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, will provide a reliable supply of solar and wind energy on a long-term basis, and serve as a template for other government customers to purchase utility scale renewable energy packages. Read more

NEI report examines economic impact of Xcel Energy’s Minnesota nuclear fleet

A new economic analysis from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) reports that Xcel Energy’s Minnesota nuclear power plants create $1 billion in economic benefits for the state’s economy.

The report, The Impact of Xcel Energy’s Nuclear Fleet on the Minnesota Economy, also found that the fleet directly employs 1,700 workers, indirectly supports 6,100 jobs and generates $33 million in state and local taxes. The company’s two nuclear plants produce enough electricity for the entire Minneapolis-
St. Paul metro area, the study found. Read more