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North Dakota and Minnesota face off over coal power in federal appeals court

The states of North Dakota and Minnesota on Wednesday took their legal battle over coal-generated electricity to a federal appeals court in St. Paul and faced tough questions from the three-judge panel.

The case pits Minnesota regulators against the state of North Dakota and its utility and coal interests over a 2007 Minnesota law restricting new power generation from coal. North Dakota successfully argued in federal district court that the law illegally regulates out-of-state utilities in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Read more

Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Natural Gas for Xcel, CEO Says

Xcel Energy Inc., the biggest U.S. provider of wind power, expects long-term contracts for the technology to beat the cost of natural gas, another sign of the rapid transformation of the power market.

Xcel, the Minneapolis-based utility that serves eight states, is receiving bids for 20-year power-purchase agreements at about $25 a megawatt-hour for wind energy, Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York.

While gas prices are close to historic lows, he doesn’t see them remaining there forever, and Xcel expects prices for electricity from the fossil fuel to be closer to $32 a megawatt-hour over the same period. Read more

Top 10 States Ranked in Energy Efficiency Scorecard: MA, CA, VT, RI, OR, CT, MD, WA, NY … With MN and IL Tied for 10th

Top 10 States Ranked in Energy Efficiency Scorecard: MA, CA, VT, RI, OR, CT, MD, WA, NY … With MN and IL Tied for 10th; Five Most Improved States: MD, IL, DC, CA, and TX; and Five States in Most Need of Improvement: MS, LA, SD, WY, and ND.

Washington, DC—Energy efficiency measures continue to flourish in states across the country, with several states—including California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas and the nation’s capital, Washington, DC—taking major steps that improved their scores in the ninth annual edition of the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The State Scorecard ranking of the states is issued annually with the support of the US Department of Energy. This year, DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan participated in the release of the ACEEE report. Read more

Xcel launches $68M upgrade at Prairie Island nuclear plant

Xcel Energy Inc. has shut down one of its two nuclear reactors in Red Wing, Minn., for refueling and to replace an original generator and transformer in a monthlong $68 million project that will employ about 1,000 specialized contractors, the utility said Monday.

The project at the Prairie Island nuclear power plant Unit 2 is part of more than $1 billion in investment Xcel is making in its two Minnesota nuclear power plants to extend their operating lives beyond the original 40-year licenses. In 2013, Xcel replaced Unit 2’s steam generator at a cost of more than $280 million. Read more

Xcel Energy wants to replace 100,000 Minnesota streetlights with LEDs

Streetlights are about to get brighter, cheaper and more energy efficient in a wide swath of Minnesota.

Xcel Energy, the largest electric company in Minnesota, said Thursday that it intends to replace all of its 100,000 streetlights across the state with energy-efficient LEDs — part of a proposed $100 million, five-year streetlight upgrade in all eight states it serves. Read more

90 miles of high-profile CapX2020 transmission line electrified

A joint transmission project developed by 11 transmission‐owning utilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin has electrified 90 miles of line, completing a $300 million investment aimed at accessing Midwest wind power, Smart Grid News reports. Read more

Public invited to learn about Minnesota Power’s advancement of EnergyForward

Minnesota Power a division of Allete, Inc., invites electric customers and interested stakeholders to attend one of four informational meetings to be held in St. Paul and across Minnesota Power’s service territory in October to learn more about the company’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan. The 2015 plan was filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 1, 2015.

Area meetings are:

Duluth – Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6 - 8, University of Minnesota Duluth - Griggs’ Center, 1120 Kirby Drive

Eveleth – Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 - 8 p.m., Curl Mesabi, 901 Hat Trick Avenue

The 2015 plan outlines the next chapter in the company’s EnergyForward resource strategy. Minnesota Power’s EnergyForward strategy is reshaping the company’s power supply from a predominantly coal-based energy mix to one that is more diverse, while maintaining low cost, reliable electricity to customers. The 2015 plan is designed to supply Minnesota Power customers with a safe, reliable, and affordable power supply while improving environmental performance, and reducing emissions, sustaining the company’s high-quality energy conservation program and adding renewables in the near-term and natural gas in the long-term.

The 2015 plan covers the 15-year planning period from 2015 – 2029, and is available on Minnesota Power’s website. Attendees will learn about the region’s future energy needs and how the company is planning to further diversify its energy supply while keeping power affordable for its customers. The public will have the opportunity to ask Minnesota Power questions about the 2015 plan following a brief presentation. Read more

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

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. Read more

CenterPoint Energy ranks high as Environmental Champion in Utility Trusted Brand & Engagement Residential Study

Company ranked third in Midwest in Cogent Reports 2015 Study

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- CenterPoint Energy ranked third among the largest Midwest Region natural gas utilities in the U.S. and was named an Environmental Champion by Cogent™ Reports. The Environmental Champions list was compiled from scores and ratings given by consumers surveyed for the annual Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™ study. The results are based on more than 25,000 consumer performance ratings for 125 leading gas and electric utilities throughout the U.S.

"We're pleased our customers recognize that natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel that has less impact on the environment and that they appreciate investments we've made to help them use it safely and efficiently," said Gregg Knight, senior vice president and chief customer officer for CenterPoint Energy. "Through our energy efficiency rebates and Conservation Improvement Programs, we've implemented programs that have enabled our customers to use less gas; thereby, reducing carbon emissions and saving nearly two billion cubic feet of natural gas - enough to supply nearly 24,500 homes with natural gas for an entire year." Read more

Pollution Control Agency says Minnesota already meets new ozone rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced new regulations for smog-causing ozone pollution, reducing the ground level ozone standard from 75 to 70 parts per billion.

The EPA said the move will help reduce smog that can irritate lungs and worsen bronchitis, emphysema and asthma in addition to other health impacts.

The cut will prevent 320,000 childhood asthma attacks, the EPA says. While some environmental and health groups praised the effort, others said the Obama administration should have gone farther. Read more