Minn. utilities, clean energy advocates, work on energy options

Dean Tofteland sprays his fields.
Dean Tofteland drives his tractor and sprays one of his fields amongst wind turbines north of Luverne, Minn., June 13, 2014.
Jackson Forderer / For MPR News file

A coalition of utilities and clean energy advocates say they want to give electricity customers more options for power sources while keeping energy reliable and affordable.

Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, the state's two largest utilities, worked with the Great Plains Institute and the Center for Energy and the Environment on a set of recommendations to give the Legislature.

Chris Clark, who will become president of Xcel Energy's Upper Midwest operations in January, said Xcel's customers already have the option to support wind energy but are demanding more.

"People want to have even more say over it, and so we're actually interested in developing some of those options and trying some of these things as pilots," Clark said. "We've seen other states do this and we think there are opportunities."

Clark said that sentiment led to the recent partnership between the utility and the city of Minneapolis, which wanted to boost its use of energy produced by renewable sources.

The coalition's recommendations could include giving customers a chance to receive all of their electricity from renewable sources.

"They aspire to keep what's really important about the existing framework," said Rolf Nordstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Great Plains Institute. "Things like just, reasonable and competitive rates, but add some new characteristics to the system, like the ability to deliver new kinds of services and options for customers that they haven't really had before."

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