Xcel plan: Double renewables and reduce carbon emissions by 2030

Sherco Plant
Coal is piled at the Sherburne County Generation Plant (Sherco) in Becker, Minn., October 2, 2012.
Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News 2012

Xcel Energy said Friday it plans to double its renewable energy portfolio and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The resource plan would help meet proposed federal regulations aimed at addressing climate change.

Xcel stopped short of promising to retire part of its massive coal plant, the Sherburne County Generating Station. Environmental groups have pushed for retirement of Sherco's two older units, but Xcel officials said the plant supplies reliable, affordable power and retiring part of it would cost more.

Chris Clark, president of Xcel's Northern States Power Co. in Minnesota, said the utility remains open to considering retiring part of Sherco, which currently supplies enough power to serve roughly 2 million homes.

"We recognize a lot of parties are interested in having that dialogue and we welcome that as part of this resource plan," Clark said.

Adding wind and solar will allow Xcel to rely less on Sherco's two older units between now and 2030, he said. But retiring one or more of Sherco's units would require Xcel to seek alternative sources, such as a natural gas plant, adding cost, Clark said.

"What we tried to do is to be as creative as we could in putting forth a plan that could achieve substantial carbon reductions, so we focused on that as the goal, while keeping the plan overall as affordable as we can," Clark said.

The resource plan was filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to scrutinize the plan over the next year or so.

Xcel is also asking the Public Utilities Commission to consider changes to the resource plan process that utility officials say would allow for more collaboration with various stakeholders.

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