Settlement to close coal plants says more about the poor state of monopoly utility oversight than climate change

On May 20, 2019, after closed-door negotiations with a few environmental groups and the labor union LIUNA, Xcel Energy announced an agreement on early retirement of its coal plants, new solar commitments, and buying a fracked gas plant.  

While Xcel retiring its coal plants, committing to ramped up energy efficiency, and adding 3,000 megawatts of new solar by 2030 are significant wins for Minnesota’s health, environment, climate goals, and energy customers, it comes at a high cost.

Xcel shareholders make out handsomely from the deal. The monopoly utility wins a cease fire over its proposal to purchase an existing gas plant in Mankato. Taken together with the proposed Becker gas plant that it won through legislative hijinks two years ago, the projects will add well over one billion dollars to the company’s rate base - i.e. the amount energy users pay a guaranteed rate of return to Xcel upon.

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John Farrell: Let’s look more closely at the Xcel deal on closing coal plants

By JOHN FARRELL |May 23, 2019 at 12:33 am     

https://www.twincities.com/2019/05/23/john-farrell-lets-look-more-closely-at-the-xcel-deal-on-closing-coal-plants/

Earlier this week, Xcel Energy announced an agreement with several environmental organizations over its upcoming 15-year resource plan. Highlights include early retirement of its coal plants, new solar commitments, and buying a fracked-gas plant. While there are several significant wins for Minnesota’s health, environment, climate goals, and energy customers, it comes at a high cost for measures that the state’s utility regulators should require of the utility without concession.

Xcel shareholders make out handsomely. The monopoly utility wins a cease fire over its proposal to purchase an existing gas plant in Mankato. Taken together with the proposed Becker gas plant that it won through legislative hijinks two years ago, the projects will add well over $1 billion to the company’s rate base — the capital expenses that the utility’s shareholders earn profits on.

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E3 Study Conclusions give clue on Xcel's Energy Plan

Xcel Energy has teamed up with a research organization called E3 to model 18 different scenarios for our long-term energy future. Xcel hired E3 to help them craft their 15-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which Xcel Energy has a July 1st deadline to release.

 

 

On April 17th, E3 presented the study conclusions to a room of Xcel Employees and stakeholders who are closely following Xcel’s integrated resource planning process.     See Full slideshow here

 

Xcel will release a sneak preview of the 15-year plan the company prefers on May 20th which will provide us with some new updates. But until then, here are the Main Takeaways from E3’s April 17th presentation:   (Below )

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April Fools Day Satire Performance on Xcel's Mankato Gas Plant Purchase

This past April Fool’s day, Community Power and Partners performed a street theater of a press conference. We drew attention toward Xcel Energy intending to sink $650 million ratepayer dollars into purchasing a Mankato natural gas plant. Mr. Monopoly in costume, spoke for Xcel and gave a prepared statement to the public and press: We are overanxious to be able to give this vision and long-term debt with the Minnesota public." While the press conference was of course satirical, the script did involve actual direct quotes from Xcel CEO Ben Fowke, Xcel Govt Affairs Lobbyist Rick Evans, and recent Xcel Regulatory Consultant James Albers.

 

Click Image above for the final cut of the video !

Watch the full You Tube version of the video or the full Livestream or the of our press conference performance outside Xcel Headquarters April 1st, or read the full transcript below. There's also the livestream here from a more front-facing angle: http://bit.ly/2OF0KJV

Comments to the MN Public Utilities Commission on the Mankato Natural gas plant proposal will close on April 30th. It was preceded by numerous comments opposing the purchase and news coverage from Frank Jossi of Midwest Energy News.

The following day on April 2nd, Xcel Energy officials also stated their case for the Mankato Gas Plant acquisition (see full quote on blogpost) during an event where the public was invited to give feedback and questions to Xcel on its on its to-be-released long-term energy plan.

Click below for the Full Transcript ! 

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Xcel Energy hosts non-technical public engagement session

Late last year, Community Power's submitted comments to state regulators that Xcel’s stakeholder engagement sessions should not be held exclusively during work hours on a weekdays in order to be more accessible to a wider range of interested individuals.

Likely in response to this comment, Xcel Energy held a "non-technical public informational session the evening of Tuesday April 2nd at the Wilder Center in Saint Paul. (See Facebook Event Page)  Xcel Intended for the event to be held in January but it was postponed twice due to unfortunate timing with weather circumstances. 

On the website they created for the event, Xcel stated the company would provide an introduction to their 15-year energy plan for Minnesota and “give members of the public an opportunity to provide feedback and learn how to get involved on an ongoing basis”.

Xcel is required by the state to come up with a 15-year energy plan that looks at a wide range of scenarios of ways how they can meet customers’ energy needs for the years 2019-2034. As an organization, we want to ensure the scenarios Xcel studies includes giving a fair consideration for distributed renewable energy generation as well as questioning whether a utility with a 100% carbon free goal should be buying new natural gas plants 

The open house event ended up being great opportunity to ask Xcel questions about its plans for the future with a good attendance from community members eager to share what they would like to see.

Photo of the years Xcel currently plans to retire a number of their thermal baseload plants. 

To learn more about what Xcel’s Resource Plan is, what is at stake, why it matters and what we deserve from Xcel, click here

To read some highlights on what we heard from Xcel on April 2nd, click below. 

 

 

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