Message Points for Xcel's 15 Year Plan: Racial Justice, Community Solar and Fossil Gas

Community Solar

 Xcel’s Proposal:  Includes only minimal (300 MW) additional rooftop and community solar for an entire 15 years.  Waits until 2025 to add 4000 MW of utility-controlled solar)

 

Core point: Solar energy production has boomed since 2013, when there was almost no solar in Minnesota, to today where over 700 MW are being produced by community and rooftop solar in Xcel’s Minnesota territory. Community solar is an important tool in making solar accessible for renters and Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. Xcel is proposing only 300 MW of new community and rooftop solar be added by 2035, when in 2018 alone 200 MW were built in Minnesota. Xcel must reflect the true growth potential of community and rooftop solar in their plan.

 

More on Solar- Health/Equity/Cost

More solar will cut greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and would make their proposed fossil gas plant a harder sell to the PUC (see Fossil Gas section below).

2018’s McKnight Foundation “Smarter Grid” study by GridLab showed that distributed renewables and efficiency together could save $1,200 per Minnesota household per year. Why is Xcel not considering this study? 

Community and rooftop solar have generated thousands of high-paying jobs in Minnesota. The State’s solar employment stood at over 4,000 jobs before the pandemic hit.

Locally-produced and owned renewables are critical for reliability, efficiency, climate resilience, community-wealth building, equity, and strategic use of land. Smaller-scale projects located within the community where the power is being used are more efficient, resilient, and reduce the need for expensive new transmission lines, thereby protecting ratepayers. 

Fossil Gas

 

Xcel’s Proposal: Build a huge (800 MW) fracked gas plant in Becker, MN; Also consider adding significantly more fracked gas (1700 MW) beginning in 2031 to replace retiring coal plants.

 

Core Point: Xcel’s proposed fossil gas plant is bad for the climate and bad for customers. The plant and accompanying gas pipeline would cost customers over $1 billion to build. And in the likelihood Xcel shuts the plant down early (due to economic or climate factors) customers, not Xcel shareholders, would still have to pay for the full cost of building the facility. In tandem with the risk of becoming stranded assets, the proposed fossil gas plants are not financially-sound investments because of the current and projected costs of clean energy alternatives. Analysis done by Sierra Club shows customers would save $360 million if clean energy was built instead. So Xcel is choosing more expensive options to maximize their profit at the expense of their customers.

 

As for climate, Sierra Club analysis shows that the proposed plant would emit 3.6 million metric tons of carbon annually (including emissions from gas extraction and transportation). That’s as much as putting 777,757 cars on the road, or as much as building almost another full sized coal plant. We cannot be building new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate crisis especially when Minnesota is already not on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. The gas plant proposed has a lifespan that is decades long, but burning fossil fuels must stop well before the end of that lifespan.

 

More on Fossil Gas Health/Equity/Cost: 

Fossil gas is only marginally better than coal in terms of GHG emissions. Methane, the main component of fossil gas before it is burned, is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Significant amounts of unburned methane leak into the atmosphere during the process of extracting, transporting (e,g. pipelines), and storing fossil gas. Even as it is burned to produce electricity, fossil gas still emits 50% or more of the GHGs emitted by burning coal (compared to zero such emissions from renewables solar and wind).

 

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract gas contaminates groundwater, harms human health and pollutes the air and water with toxic chemicals. By building new gas plants in Minnesota, Xcel will be outsourcing the harms caused by fracking to communities near fossil gas extraction sites that will have to deal with the air pollution, water pollution, health problems, and other harms of fracking visited upon those communities.

 

The risks of fossil gas production and use disproportionately harm people of color and residents living in poverty. Specifically, black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and residents living in poverty are more vulnerable to the outdoor air pollution, water contamination, and earthquake damage caused by fossil gas production and transport because fracked gas extraction sites are more likely to be permitted and constructed in their communities.

 

Racial Justice

 

Xcel’s Proposal: 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 not many firm commitments and no details on how Xcel will ensure this is prioritized.

 

Core Point: Xcel is the largest polluter in our state, and their plan lacks commitments to addressing systemic racism in our energy system. Much of their current infrastructure perpetuates environmental racism since pollution and climate change harms Black, Indigenous, and Latinix communities more than white communities.

 

Xcel’s efforts to stifle community solar reduces access to clean energy to those who would benefit most, renters and people of color. Their desire to limit the program is because they want to own and profit from clean energy produced in Xcel’s territory, requiring that Minnesota households pay the utility for clean energy rather than having more opportunities to save and earn through clean energy. 

 

More on Racial Justice Health/Equity/Cost: 

 

  • Pollution exposure versus production among Americans: 
    • Latinx - exposed to 63% more pollution than they produce
    • Black - exposed to 56% more pollution than they produce
    • Whites - exposed to 17% less pollution than they produce
  • While Xcel did double the minimum requirement for investment in traditional low-income energy efficiency programs, they have not supported equitable financing models, like Inclusive Financing, and are not investing in enough culturally competent community outreach to low income and communities of color. 
  • Xcel’s workforce is 93% White and their plan includes no hard commitments to diversification of their workforce.
  • Xcel invests in garbage burning facilities, including the HERC, which has been a glaring example of environmental racism that the North Minneapolis community has been fighting for decades.





Additional Issues with the plan

 

  1. Xcel wants to keep their Monticello nuclear plant going ten years longer. 

 

  1. There are no solid commitments in Xcel’s plan to support plant communities and workers through the transition off coal and onto clean energy. 

 

  • Lee Samelson
    published this page in Blog 2021-01-11 16:30:10 -0600

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