Fossil gas hurts the climate, our health and our pocketbooks
St. Paul is for clean, renewable energy, not fossil fuel infrastructure
Prioritize distributed renewable energy, storage, and efficiency:
Studies show we can live on renewable energy year-round in Minnesota if we have adequate energy storage. Currently, the costs of wind, solar, and storage batteries are low and continuing to go down. We need to look ahead to new technologies, not backward to old ones with increasing prices.
More than 16,000 MW of new energy storage is proposed in other regions of the US by 2034. In fact, Xcel Energy itself is already adding 275 MW of storage projects in Colorado, another one of their service areas. We want Xcel Energy to be a leader on grid storage for us here in Minnesota, not a reluctant follower.
District Energy St. Paul, North America’s largest combined heating and cooling system (CHP), is a great example of a local solution that reduces energy demand. St. Paul’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan estimates there is a potential for 3000 MW of CHP statewide. Local solutions like this help offset the need for the proposed 835 MW Sherco CC plant.
The City of St. Paul has a goal of 200 MW of rooftop solar by 2030, and estimates a potential of 800 MW total within city limits—this is a great resource for our city! Yet in spite of increasing popular demand and decreasing installation costs for distributed solar, Xcel predicts a drastic decrease in distributed solar.
Distributed solar offers resilience, efficiency, and ownership opportunities that utility scale solar does not. In 2019 Xcel abandoned plans for the first and only community solar garden in St. Paul. Minnesota solar developers have also filed 120 complaints against Xcel for delays that put projects at risk. Xcel’s plan should reflect more support for local rooftop and community solar. Instead, Xcel predicts a drastic decrease in distributed solar.
Investments in energy efficiency make our homes and businesses safer, healthier, and more affordable. St. Paul has a goal of reducing the energy burden (the percentage of income spent on energy) for more than 42,000 low income households by 2030. If this goal is met, we would save 13.5 GWh of electricity and $2.4 million in energy expenses. We’re thankful that Xcel’s plan includes energy efficiency, and encourage them to increase this commitment.
Stop the Sherco gas plant:
The proposed fossil gas plant in Becker (referred to as Sherco CC) will not come online until 2027. The typical lifetime for such a plant is 30 years but can be as much as 50. Xcel’s plan to build this new plant will lock us into fossil gas for decades.
A high probability exists that the Sherco gas plant will become a stranded asset—that is, a facility Xcel Energy owns but has become obsolete or too costly to operate. Yet, if it is not completely paid for, the remaining cost is still passed on to their customers (that’s us!) on our monthly bills. We could be paying years for a power plant that can no longer compete with renewables.
By the year 2034, the cost of energy from fossil gas is predicted to be twice that of solar and 60% higher than that of wind. Xcel Energy itself says in their 2017 Colorado Energy Plan Fact Sheet that “We are not building any new natural gas generation, reducing the risk of stranded costs”. Why wouldn’t this also apply in Minnesota?
Protest inadequate modeling:
Our state law says that utilities can build only renewable energy facilities from now on unless they, Xcel Energy in this case, can show why these facilities would not be in the public interest. But, every scenario Xcel modeled (tested) for the IRP included the proposed new fossil gas plant in Becker. They did not prove that more renewable energy with storage won’t work because they didn’t test it.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) specifically told Xcel Energy to consider “storage technology combined with generators powered by renewable sources of energy” for this IRP. Yet, again, the proposed gas plant was included in the modeled scenario that included storage. There are no plans to include storage in the current preferred plan.
Aggressive energy efficiency goals and additional load shifting by improved demand-side management would reduce storage requirements and, together with wind and solar power, could eliminate the need for the Sherco plant. But no attempt was made in Xcel Energy’s modeling to determine what those goals and improvements should be.