Equitable access to energy savings and jobs
The resource plan mentions that Xcel will look for fair access to clean energy programs, jobs and economic development opportunities as it invests in clean energy. However, there are no details on how Xcel will ensure this is prioritized. In its revised plan, Xcel did increase investment in traditional low-income energy efficiency programs. There is still time for Xcel to make the grade with its plan in other ways by:
- Holding robust conversations with customers and stakeholders to develop fair and equitable outcomes in clean energy investments
- Enabling inclusive financing for clean energy projects
- Supporting accessible community solar projects to expand the program to more residents
- Developing and expanding programs that help low-income customers generate their own energy
- Increasing investment in workforce training programs that prioritize low-income community members, people of color, returning citizens, and women
- Supporting the development of dedicated community-led outreach and education for renters and under-resourced communities on the benefits of clean energy, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation
Progress to 100% Renewable Energy
Xcel has a goal of reaching 100% carbon-free energy by 2050. Xcel’s proposed plan includes a strong goal of adding 4,000 megawatts of new solar capacity onto its system over the next 15+ years. It also includes strong commitments to energy efficiency updates across Minnesota.
Xcel’s plan lost a few points in this category for extending the life of the Monticello nuclear plant instead of replacing it with renewable energy; and, for proposing to construct a large new gas plant, creating a large barrier to achieving their 100% carbon-free commitment.
Xcel plans to close the Allen S. King coal-fired power plant by 2028. Sherco 3, Xcel’s last remaining coal-fired power plant, will close by 2030, a decade ahead of schedule. Xcel will also reduce Sherco 2’s operations to a seasonal basis.
Xcel’s proposed plan calls for minimal changes in fossil gas use across Minnesota’s power grid, which will continue to emit climate-change-causing greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere. Xcel’s plan includes building a large new fossil gas plant in Becker, MN in 2026 and the potential need for gas or another “firm resource” in 2031.
While Xcel notes that these “firm resources” could be met with renewables and storage in its plan, Xcel CEO Ben Fowke has told Minnesota regulators that the company expects to add more fossil gas plants over the next decade.
Supports Energy Independence
Xcel’s preferred plan includes very little local, customer-generated clean energy or community solar gardens, despite strong customer interest and a growing community solar industry. To earn a good grade in this category, Xcel should improve its forecasting to more accurately predict customer interest in owning renewable energy, allow for greater community ownership of locally-based renewable energy projects, and avoid unnecessary investment in obsolete energy resources that would compete with customer-based energy generation.
Supports Communities and Workers
Xcel’s plan includes commitments to support communities like Becker that will be most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels due to the closure of large, polluting power plants. The plan includes good language to support plant workers and economic development in plant communities.
However, Xcel’s plan was graded down because its transition plans include another fossil fueled power plant and don’t necessarily address the tax revenue gap facing power plant communities. The utility could also do more to prioritize local hiring & family-sustaining jobs for clean energy projects while supporting the rights of workers and encouraging economic diversification.
Plans for Transportation Electrification
In their proposed plan, Xcel included one scenario with a widespread transition to electric vehicles across Minnesota. Xcel has also filed a transportation electrification plan with the MN PUC that includes many ways to increase the number of electric buses and cars on Minnesota roads.
To move to a top grade, Xcel’s transportation investments should help schools transition to electric school buses and target the build out electric vehicle infrastructure with a focus on prioritizing low-income, under-resourced communities.