Xcel Energy retiring Midwest coal plants ahead of schedule

Xcel Energy has announced plans to retire two coal plants in the Midwest ahead of schedule, supporting the company’s goals for reducing carbon emissions in the coming decades.

The Minnesota company is on track to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and aims to cut carbon emissions entirely by 2050. According to a release, the company’s last two coal plants in the Midwest region will be decommissioned a decade earlier than planned.

The plans, soon to be submitted to Minnesota state regulators, lay out a path for this transition which includes expanding wind and solar resources while using “cleaner natural gas” and extending operation of its nuclear plant in Monticello until at least 2040.

The company’s Upper Midwest Energy Plan will be brought to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in July.

“This is a significant step forward,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy in Minnesota and North and South Dakota. “Accelerating the closure of our coal plants and leading this clean energy transition would not be possible without the dedication and support of our key stakeholders.”

Xcel Energy has about 257,000 electricity customers and 113,000 natural gas customers in Wisconsin — one of eight states served by Xcel.  

As part of the company’s transition plan, the Allen S. King coal plant in Oak Park Heights, Minn., would be closed by 2028. And the Sherco 3 plant, located in Becker, Minn., would be shut down by 2030.

The company has a major wind energy project slated for completion in 2022. By then, Xcel estimates more than 30 percent of its customers’ energy in the Upper Midwest will come from wind.

By 2030, Xcel estimates more than 50 percent of customers’ energy in the region will be generated from renewable sources. The company is planning to add more than 3,000 megawatts of new solar generation by 2030. And Xcel plans to purchase a natural gas plant in Minnesota, called the Mankato Energy Center.

As the company moves toward cleaner energy generation, Xcel says employees working in some areas may need to be retrained for other jobs within the company.

“Over the next decade, we will work closely with [employees] and our plant host communities to ensure a successful transition,” Clark said.

See a recent story on clean energy in Wisconsin: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=393973

See more on Xcel’s plan to reduce carbon emissions: http://www.xcelenergy.com/environment/carbon_reduction_plan