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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Coalition Partners Launch "Energy We Can't Afford" Campaign to Challenge New Fossil Gas Plants

Quick Action: Sign the petition here to help Xcel fix its "F" grade on gas.

Across Minnesota, utilities are rushing to replace coal with fossil gas (or “natural gas” as the industry has called).

A key example is Xcel Energy's 15-Year Plan on where to source our energy from. It has yet been approved by the state, so there is time to make a difference!

 Energy Democracy coalition partners have given Xcel a Report Card on how their revised plan stacks up with important goals. 

 

While the report card shows a mixed bag, check out this article on what an "A+" energy plan might look like for Minnesota's energy users. Xcel’s Plan received one failing grade because the company did not model any energy future scenario that did not include a $1 billion new fossil gas plant + new pipeline facility in Becker, MN at the site of their soon-to-be-retired Sherco Coal plant.

Coalition partners launch the #EnergyWeCantAfford campaign (https://energywecantafford.org/)

The socially distanced action in front of Xcel’s HQ on September 10th began with a singalong to a rendition of the song "Electric Avenue" with special lyrics calling for transparency and accountability in utility planning. See the video !

 

Why is Xcel's plan a new fossil gas plant #EnergyWeCantAfford?

For decades, the industry has promoted fossil gas a “clean” and a “bridge fuel”. But most fossil gas now comes from fracking, a process which emits methane, a greenhouse gas eighty four times more potent than carbon dioxide. The fracking techniques used to extract fossil gas involve numerous hazardous chemicals which poison nearby community members.

It also places shareholders over customers. Even if Xcel shuts this proposed fossil gas plant down many years earlier than its 40-year expected lifespan, Xcel customers (rather than Xcel shareholders) will still be on the hook to pay off the costs of building it because Xcel stockholders are legally guaranteed to receive a return on infrastructure investments (like this power plant). 

 

This is not Energy Democracy. Is there a better way?

The new coalition effort called Energy We Can't Afford offers

* A quick fact sheet of what's at stake- There are not one but three proposed new fossil gas plants in MN which would set us back decades in the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy if built. But it's not too late to stop them!

* A powerful in-depth report on how investing in clean energy instead of new fossil gas infrastructure is expected to save Minnesotans and Wisconsinites around $600 million over the next 30 years.

Even back in 2018, when Xcel was still drafting its 15-year energy plan, the Minnesota’s “Smarter Grid” study was released and showed that distributed renewables and efficiency together could save $1,200 per Minnesota household per year. Meanwhile, Xcel’s preferred plan costs Minnesotans at least 1% more per year.

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