Xcel Drops Plan for New Sherco Gas Plant

Our voices were heard loud and clear! In an official filing on June 25th, Xcel Energy has dropped their plans to build the new Sherco Combined Cycle gas plant in favor of an alternative system resource mix !!!! In other words, we WON on the most urgent of fights! 

This win was a result of Clean Energy Groups and thousands of Xcel Energy customers voicing opposition to their proposed gas plant that would have emitted over 4 million metric tons of carbon per year! 

Chris Clark, the CEO of Xcel's subsidiary Northern States Power, stated in a Star Tribune Article, "One consistent theme in them (comments) was pretty strong opposition to our Sherco gas plant in Becker".

This is the most engagement the PUC has ever had around an Integrated Resource Plan and it has paid off!

On June 15th, community members and elected officials held "The People's Hearing" as an opportunity to speak out against Xcel's Plans to Build a billion dollar new gas plant with the recording submitted to the PUC as a comment.  Click here to see the video !  

This followed the June 8th presentation of the Alternative Plans to Xcel's that we are asking the MN Public Utilities Commission to approve and Click here to see a video.

Sierra Club, Fresh Energy, the Citizens Utility Board, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance have all developed 15-year energy plans that are cleaner, more affordable and more localized than Xcel's. Each organization used the same software that Xcel used to create their plan. But all concluded that there is no need to build this new gas plant (which Xcel has claimed for 5 years is necessary for reliability). But Xcel had refused to study any alternative scenario to building a new billion dollar fossil gas plant + pipeline. These alternative plans show that we could meet our energy needs by building much more distributed renewables, community solar and energy storage instead. 

 

Xcel Energy had spent the previous 5 years being so insistent that this new gas plant- at the site of their soon-to-be retired Sherco coal plants- was a necessity for the reliability of its electric grid, that the company did not include any alternative plans (until just now) and successfully pushed to get a state law authorizing this proposed gas plant in 2017 to circumvent regulators who required Xcel to study alternative plans. 

The fight for our energy future is NOT over though. Xcel has proposed to instead build 2 smaller Combustion Turbine gas plants — (one each in Lyon County in southwestern Minnesota and another near Fargo North Dakota) on claims that they are needed for reliability. These plant would be 400 MW each (adding up to the same 800 MW of new gas total that the Becker Plant would have). But these new gas plants would be peaker plans, operating only sporadically on an as-needed basis when electricity demand is high. Xcel's previously plan was to operate the planned Becker Gas plant almost continually as baseload power. So the greenhouse gas emissions difference is huge, being far lass than Xcel's previous plan. It's still new fossil gas. But on the good side, Xcel doesn't have legislative pre-approval for these proposed plants like they did for Sherco.

Because Xcel had legislative pre-approval to build a new gas plant in Becker, MN, Xcel has deciding on their own not to build it was the only way it could be stopped.

The stiff resistance that land & water protectors are giving to new oil and gas pipelines can also be credited for this win. Xcel’s previous plan for the Becker Gas plant would have required a roughly $200 million gas pipeline to supply it, which did not have legislative pre-approval and would still have to go in front of State Regulators.

Before going further, I hope we can take a minute to celebrate - this is a big very big deal.

Click the fold below to find out the other updates from Xcel's new Energy plan released in their June 25th Reply Comments.  

 

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My Comment on Xcel's 15-Year Plan Part 2: More Fair Consideration of Distributed and Community Solar

UNREALISTICALLY LOW ESTIMATES FOR COMMUNITY AND DISTRIBUTED SOLAR

 

The oddest and most bewildering problem with Xcel’s revised 2020-2034 Integrated Resource Plan is that it presents a dubiously low estimate for future new Community, Distributed and Rooftop Solar.

In 2019, I noticed a forecast for new non-utility owned community and distributed solar that declined by 90% from current levels despite recent growth trends and an abundance of projects still in the queue.

This points toward a pattern. Xcel also lowballed estimates for Community Solar back in 2013 shortly after the State Law requiring them of Xcel was passed. The company anticipated it to be a much smaller boutique program for a niche customer base who was willing to pay a bit extra.

On May 20th of 2019, about the same time as their coal plant retirement announcement, I attended one of Xcel’s Stakeholder sessions. I took a photo where they had estimated 154 MW of distributed and Community Solar and then it suddenly dropped to 22 MW for 2021.

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My Comment on Xcel's 15-year Plan Part 1: Need Alternatives to New Sherco Gas Plant

I preface my comments on Xcel’s Integrated Resource Plan by echoing that this process is the one which Xcel Energy recently identified as “where we will be responsible for our progress”. On Thursday, January 21st, Xcel’s chief lobbyist Rick Evans spoke to State Lawmakers on the proposed 100% Clean Energy Standard on the basis that "legal mandates" were not as efficient and effective of a way toward meeting carbon free goals as “the resource planning process conducted by the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC)”. Here is the exact quote which goes from 1:05:20 to 1:08:05 in this video listed online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMt3gsGyK6A 

 

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A guide for commenting on Xcel's 15 Year Plan: Racial Justice, Community Solar and Fossil Gas

 

Hey Xcel! No New Fossil Gas

Comment on Xcel's 15-Year Energy Resource Plan - Deadline Extended to February 11th !


 

We make it simple and easy to submit a comment to the MN Public Utilities Commission, who are the final decision makers who will approve, deny or modify Xcel's 15-year Plan. 

Gratefully, a group of dedicated volunteers with Saint Paul 350 has reviewed Xcel's 15-year plan has offered this list of messaging points you can use to help write your comments :

1: Stop Xcel's proposed billion-dollar new Sherco gas plant and pipeline 

2: Protest Xcel's inadequate modeling of our energy future, (which does not study or consider alternative scenarios without the new gas plant, earning Xcel a failing grade on their report card below)

3: Prioritize distributed renewable energy, storage, and efficiency

However, Xcel’s 15-year plan proposes to slash new rooftop & community solar by 90% from current levels !  

The Energy We Can't Afford Coalition has developed messaging points in this link here on community solar and making Firm Commitments to Prioritize Racial Justice. 

 

Click here to read about the strengths and weaknesses of Xcel's 15- year plan. 

 

OPTIONS TO COMMENT

Commenting is Easy! 4 Options 

MAIN POINT: you cannot submit anonymous comments
Send a comment directly to the MN Public Utility Commission via letter, direct comment, or video


1: MAIL  Write a letter. Make sure to include your name and Docket Number 19-368 and mail it to: Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite #350, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55101


2: ONLINE DIRECTLY to the MN Public Utility Commission Submit a comment at this link and then reference docket number 19-368.

3: VIDEO COMMENT sent by EMAIL Submit comment by video: create video and send a Youtube link or wav file by email to [email protected]

4. THROUGH AN ORGANIZATION: MN350 and the Energy We Can’t Afford Coalition has provided a sample letter in this link, with space to type in your personal comments. These will be submitted as comments on Xcel’s 15 year plan.

 

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2020 Year in Review

This year has been unprecedented. On a global scale, a pandemic. On a national scale, a long overdue upheaval in protest to racial injustice to which Community Power posted an extensive historical reflection on. On a local scale we have seen changes in how we work, live, and take care of one another. Below are some highlights of what we accomplished in 2020 always alongside partners. 

CALLING FOR WHAT'S TRULY NEEDED: ENERGY JUSTICE

  • Joint Letter to Xcel & the PUC on shut-offs and utility debt: As the COVID crisis hit, Community Power contributed to a joint letter to protect families from utility shut-offs and to demand utility debt cancellation by using Xcel’s historic profits made during the pandemic. As one among many voices from the Just Solar Coalition, we spoke up together to the Governor, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and the utilities themselves, and won a moratorium on utility shut-offs that extends as long as the crisis.

EXPANDING ACCESS AND PARTICIPATION IN ENERGY DECISION-MAKING

  • Groundbreaking Video Testimony Approved: We helped open the doors for ordinary folks to comment on the plans of energy utilities by winning a decision from a judge to allow short video testimony -- our first case saw a total of 72  Minnesotans take advantage of this option. That show of support played a key role in a recent encouraging decision, and the Judge cited this as an important precedent that captured the spirit of the law for participation, transparency, fairness, and process. Sincere thanks to the team at Sierra Club and CERTs for helping pull this off together, and to ILSR, CEF, and MN350 for co-signing our letter and adding key data points.
  • Building Power of Community in the "Superbowl" of Energy - Xcel's 15-Year Plan: We have kept Minnesotans regularly updated about improving Xcel’s 15-year Energy Plan and for that purpose over the long multi-year process with the multiple delay requests from Xcel. Over the course, of the fall we were invited to join a team of folks supporting grassroots groups to comment, intervene, and influence Xcel's IRP to better reflect the needs of community in the metro area, which have unequivocally oppose fossil fuel and Xcel's attempts to diminish community ownership of renewables.
  • Partnering with St. Paul 350 to support more bottom-up style climate fights in St. Paul. We provided technical and logistical support in outreach to district councils, St. Paul educators, and other community organizations around how to approach Xcel, and how to create change on behalf of community solar and other clean energy-friendly policies.

INCLUSIVE FINANCING FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY MOVES AHEAD

  • Inclusive Financing Is Almost Here: After years of conversations with community partners, technical experts, and City leaders, we had a whirlwind of progress and work on Inclusive Financing. On November 20th after a series of public hearings, comment periods, and letter-writing, the overseeing judge issued a recommendation that the PUC approve Minneapolis' pilot project for inclusive energy financing. The Judge also called to the PUC to take up the bold and necessary interpretation that the PUC should allow "a thousand flowers bloom" when it comes to energy efficiency.

*** Want to see the Judges recommendation (or read the comments which Community Power's submitted thus far)? Click here and in the row that says “Docket Number” choose 19 in the drop-down menu, and type in 524 as the number. Judge Lipman's Recommendation will be listed as the only document submitted on November 20th. You can find the 3 Comments which Community Power contributed to the discussion by scrolling to the dates of August 21st, October 7th, and December 7th. 

STOPPING NEW FOSSIL GAS

  • Drawing a Line in the Sand on Energy We Can't Afford: We are active coalition partners in the Energy We Can’t Afford Coalition that focuses on removing fossil gas from the conversation in Xcel's IRP. The Coalition has now submitted at least 3000 comments contesting Xcel’s plans to build a new fossil gas plant in Becker, MN!

LOWERING BILLS FOR MINNESOTANS

  • Cooperatively-Owned Solar takes off: We supported Southern Minnesotans connect with a member-owned solar cooperative to lower their electric bills and share in the any profits, including 30+ residents, an ice cream shop, a library, a Buddhist meditation center, a Catholic church, and a prairie-restoration non-profit. (Shout-outs to partners CEF + MNIPL!)
  • Energy Efficiency Cohort: We co-facilitated the first year-long Energy Efficiency Cohort that supported 10 community-based organizations to build a shared analysis on how to transform efficiency programs to center renters, households with low-income, and BIPOC communities. (Shout out to CEED, CUB, & Neighborhood Hub!)

CONTRIBUTING HUMOR AND ALIVENESS TO THE DISCUSSION

  • Mr. Monopoly Speaks Again: We partnered with members of the Energy We Can’t Afford coalition to host a satirical interview on Xcel's 15-year plan with Mr. Monopoly-- also known as Mr. Moneybags, playing the role of a self-appointed spokesman for investor-owned utilities. Click below to watch and hear what he says about Xcel's preferred plan...!

LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR  (CLICK BELOW)

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