Minnesota PUC Requires Xcel to Assess the Future of Sherco

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Contact: Jessica Tatro, Sierra Club-North Star Chapter, 612.963.9642

J. Drake Hamilton, Fresh Energy, 651.366.7557

Kevin Reuther, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, (651) 287-4861

Minnesota PUC Requires Xcel to Assess the Future of Sherco

Xcel Must Examine Solar, Wind, and Energy Efficiency Opportunities

Saint Paul, MN- Saint Paul, MN- Today, after hearing from more than 3,300 Minnesotans that Xcel’s customers want to move beyond coal and invest in solar, wind and energy efficiency, the Public Utilities Commission ordered Xcel to submit a Sherco coal plant replacement study that explores clean energy options. Now, Xcel has the opportunity and challenge to outline its plan to build a 21-century clean energy system.

“We need to see Minnesota on a path to a clean energy future,” said Margaret Levin, Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director. “This Sherco study is a first step to outline the opportunities to replace Sherco with as much clean energy – including wind, solar and energy efficiency – as possible.”

Xcel Energy is facing decisions on whether to invest millions of dollars to address pollution from Sherco that impacts health and impairs visibility as far away as the Boundary Waters. According to a report from Clean Air Task Force, pollution from Xcel’s Sherco plant causes an estimated 92 premature deaths, 150 heart attacks and 1,600 asthma attacks each year.

“As a parent I do what I can to keep my sons safe and ensure they exist in healthy environment,” said Shawna Hedlund, MPH and mother of three asthmatic children, at last week’s hearing. “I evaluate air quality indices, watch for ozone alerts. But I also count on my government and industry to do all they can do to protect the air my kids breathe, especially when it comes to energy resources. Because the science is in, and coal pollution is the largest threat to the air they breath.”

Xcel’s continued investment in fossil fuels ignores broad public support for investments in renewable energy and energy conservation. A 2012 poll of Minnesotan voters found that over two-thirds of voters polled supported a variety of clean energy laws like Minnesota’s law to secure 25 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025—regardless of political affiliation.

The Sherco Replacement Study will be submitted to the Commission by July 1, 2013.

The PUC also set a date and parameters for Xcel’s next resource plan. The plan, due February 2014, must include consideration of clean energy opportunities such as utility scale solar and demand response along with outlining solutions that meet Minnesota’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

“Minnesota is on a science-based path to reduce the carbon pollution causing global warming,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy. “Cutting carbon pollution at Sherco is critical for responsibly addressing climate change.”

Xcel Energy’s resource plan also includes a move off of coal at its Black Dog plant in Burnsville. The PUC deferred approving Xcel’s resource plan, including replacement options for Black Dog, until later this year.

“Xcel Energy’s motto is to innovate at the rate of customer value,” said Kevin Reuther, Legal Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “ Minnesotans value our health and clean air and water. It’s time for Xcel to make a commitment and start building a plan to replace two of Sherco’s boilers with investments in clean energy, especially wind and solar, that creates good-paying jobs.”

Sierra Club supporters submitted more than 3,300 comments demanding innovation by retiring Sherco boilers 1 and 2, increasing energy efficiency to 2% annually, investing in 1000 MW of solar by 2025 and improving demand side management of energy consumption.