Xcel Energy has rolled out a new “clean energy vision” that aims for the utility to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.
As part of this vision, the company also announced plans to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030 (from 2005 levels) in the eight states it serves. Xcel claims that the new goals are the most ambitious announced to date within the electric power industry.
“This is an extraordinary time to work in the energy industry, as we’re providing customers more low-cost clean energy than we could have imagined a decade ago” says Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “We’re accelerating our carbon-reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it and committed to working with partners to make it happen.”
Based in Minneapolis, Xcel Energy serves homes and businesses in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
Xcel Energy says its track record includes reducing carbon emissions 35% since 2005, as part of its previous goal of 60% by 2030. The company believes that its 2030 goal can be achieved affordably with renewable energy and other technologies currently available. However, achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are yet not cost-effective or commercially available today, the utility says. In turn, Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting necessary policies in place to achieve the transition.
In response to the news, Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, says, “Rapid advances in wind farm technology have cut costs and increased output to the point where zero-carbon wind power is now both cleaner and more affordable than traditional sources. Xcel Energy’s outstanding leadership in large-scale wind power investments will help ensure these ambitious carbon-cutting goals can be met while keeping electricity service affordable and reliable for consumers.”
“When I launched my campaign back in 2017, we had a bold agenda for our state to get to 100 percent renewable by 2040,” notes Colorado’s governor-elect, Jared Polis. “Xcel Energy’s exciting announcement today, along with the strong climate goals communities like Pueblo, Summit County, Ft. Collins, Denver and others across the state have embraced, shows we are leading the way forward right here in Colorado — by committing to a renewable and clean energy future.”
In Colorado, the company plans to replace coal-fired units 1 and 2 at the Comanche Generating Station with a $2.5 billion investment in renewable energy, battery storage and natural gas. This includes the construction of 1,131 MW of wind, 707 MW of solar PV and 275 MW of battery storage across the state.
The Sierra Club argues that although Xcel’s work to advance clean energy is worth celebrating, the utility continues to invest in fossil fuel expansions. In turn, it is critical Xcel ramp up investments in solar, wind, battery storage and energy efficiency across its service territory, the group says.
“As Xcel moves forward on its plan for a clean energy future, we’ll be looking closely at what it means for workers, the retirement of its remaining coal plants, commitments to clean energy, and avoiding a dangerous and costly build-out of gas plants,” states Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Xcel’s announcement is a positive step forward, but we need to make sure it’s both sustainable and fair.”
“Xcel Energy’s groundbreaking climate commitment is an act of true leadership,” notes Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It is anchored in proven clean energy solutions that are already delivering healthier air, low-cost electricity, major economic investments and jobs to local communities. Ambitious efforts to slash carbon-dioxide pollution are urgently needed. Xcel Energy’s vision will help speed the day when the United States eliminates all such pollution from its power sector, which is necessary to seize the environmental and economic opportunity of powering cars, trucks, homes and businesses with cost-effective, zero-emitting electricity.”
“Our goals are ambitious, and achieving them requires a long runway,” concludes Fowke. “We’re starting the conversation today to make sure we can achieve this groundbreaking transition while continuing to keep energy affordable and reliable for customers.”