State regulators, activists discuss Sherco power plant's future

Sherco plant
Xcel's Sherburne County Generating Station in the central Minnesota town of Becker is the company's largest power plant in the upper Midwest.
Photo courtesy Xcel Energy

State regulators this week will discuss the future of Minnesota's largest coal-fired power plant.

The carbon dioxide emissions from Xcel Energy's Sherburne County Generating Station -- Sherco -- which puts out enough electricity to serve more than 2 million homes and businesses, raise concerns about climate change.

The discussion at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday follows a comment period in which more than 8,000 people weighed in on Sherco's future. The vast majority of the comments expressed support for retiring the plant's two older units.

On Tuesday, the Sierra Club planned more than a dozen events around the state to put additional pressure on Xcel and state officials.

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"We would like to see Sherco be retired as a coal plant and have that electricity replaced with clean energy options — things like wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency," Sierra Club organizer Alexis Boxer said.

No decision on Sherco's future is expected at Thursday's hearing, but state officials could order Xcel to include a retirement plan as part of its regulatory filings.

The Sierra Club was one of the environmental groups who organized petition drives to advocate for the retirement of Sherco 1 and 2, which were both built in the 1970s. The events planned Tuesday include film screenings and discussions at colleges and high schools. Boxer said Minnesota's youth have shown a strong interest in clean energy.

"There's a lot on the line for future generations, so young people across Minnesota, across the U.S., across the world, really, are taking action," she said. "When we're talking about moving beyond coal, we're not just talking about transitioning our energy economy, this is very personal for young people."