Xcel's 2021 Report Gives Glimpse Into Their Future Planning

The MN Public Utilities Commission has decided on Xcel recent Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), but here’s a glimpse ahead. Xcel Energy just released their 2021 Annual Report which might reveal the direction Xcel hopes to take with their future IRPs.

Overall, we need to see some more proof that Xcel trying to avoid actual investing in the things we need: solar, wind, geothermal, storage, demand response, and efficiency.

Here is the Main Page for Xcel’s 2021 Annual Report


Here is the Interactive Report where you can access the text


Click below to see some quotes from it:

“Xcel Energy is partnering with the Department of energy and the Idaho National Laboratory on a pilot project that is scheduled to begin producing carbon-free hydrogen at our Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station next year…” (p.9)

“...Xcel Energy last fall announced a vision to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its natural gas business by 2050.” (p.14)

“…we set an important interim goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our natural gas service 25% from 2020 levels…by 2030.” (p.14)

“…we will, over time, purchase only certified low-emissions gas from our suppliers.” (p.14)  [What is “low-emissions gas?” Is it gas from suppliers who have reduced their methane leaks?]

“And for our customers, we will offer new voluntary programs to reduce carbon emissions from their own natural gas use, through expanded conservation efforts and the use of low-carbon gas alternatives, including hydrogen and renewable natural gas.” (p.14)  [Might "new voluntary programs” be like Windsource for electricity for which the customer pays extra? Perhaps “renewable natural gas” comes from such things as landfills and feedlots.]

“Xcel Energy is set to launch a series of pilots to test renewable natural gas, smart electric water heaters and air source heat pumps with customers, as well as test both hydrogen production and the blending of hydrogen in its natural gas delivery system.” (p.14) 

Xcel’s fossil gas "plans include…Offering customer options – encourage electrification, where beneficial.” (form 10-K p.7)  [Does “beneficial” mean where the customer’s energy cost is reduced?]

Stranded assets are mentioned repeatedly among the risk factors for investors. (Form 10-K pp.17-23)

All-in-all, there is no apparent intention of Xcel eliminating fossil gas from its electric generation or its gas division that supplies customers. This means we can expect Xcel’s next IRP will depend on those gas peaker plants.

As for hydrogen production, we deserve to see an energy budget comparison for:
        Nuclear generation —> hydrogen —> mixture with fossil gas —> customer space heating
        Nuclear generation —> electricity —> customer space heating

In addition, NSP Minnesota’s ROE (Return On Equity) = net income / average stockholder’s equity = 8.45% (Form 10-K p.9) 


Skepticism is warranted on hydrogen and "renewable natural gas" (like what Ramsey county is working on) proposals as it seems to be a way to double down on business as usual instead of building out a truly renewable and resilient grid. Hydrogen as storage has great potential, but this doesn't seem to be what Xcel is proposing. Is the main reason these pipeline-based proposals are getting traction due to the abundant funding from energy companies and utilities? It would be most helpful to see an energy budget comparison that measures both the cost savings and carbon savings of a hydrogen/gas mixture.
In a quote from Brendon Slotterback (McKnight Foundation) on Twitter: "Over 20 years, hydrogen has 33 times the global warming potential of an equal amount of carbon dioxide. These decades matter. If you want to inject it into the gas system, that system should have no leaks. How are we doing on that?" and he shared this article: Miracle Fuel Hydrogen Can Actually Make Climate Change Worse

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