Utilities are one of the main sources of pollution in the US and while many are greening their energy supply, they’re still using fossil fuels. That may be changing and multi-state utility Xcel Energy is leading that charge. Yesterday (Dec. 4) it announced that it will reduce emissions by 80 percent in the next decade and produce 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050 as it moves to wind and solar power.
The Minnesota-based utility is one of the largest in the country, serving eight states, and announced its decision in Denver. It’s the largest utility in Colorado as well in Minnesota and serves other states including Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas.
“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,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO, 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.”
The utility already has 6,700 megawatts of wind in operation and 700 MWs of solar. It also plans to add 3,700 new MWs of wind and has announced some plans for more solar, like 700 new MWs of solar in Colorado alone.
"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,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “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."
In an interim goal, Xcel said would reduce carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 80 percent by 2030. That’s upping its previous goal of reducing them by 60 percent by 2030. The company said it’s already reduced its electric generation emissions by 35 percent since 2005 as its increased energy production from wind and solar and relied on cleaner energy sources like nuclear and natural gas.
The moves were heralded by Colorado’s incoming Gov. Jared Polis (D) and environmental advocates, among others.
”When I launched my campaign back in 2017 we had a bold agenda for our state to get to 100 percent renewable by 2040,” Polis said. “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.”
“Renewable power is here. It's been growing since Colorado passed the first voter-approved renewable energy standard in 2004 and now there's no turning back,” said Garrett Garner-Wells, director of Environment Colorado. “And it’s not just Colorado. Since our initial foray into clean energy, states as large as California and as small as Hawaii have committed to getting rid of fossil fuels.”
Xcel said it use multiple technologies to achieve the goals, including using technologies that aren’t yet cost effective or commercially available now. While wind and solar power will be a significant portion of the efforts, the company could also use systems designed to capture and trap carbon dioxide emissions. from gas or coal plants, said Lisa Kiava, a spokeswoman.Tweet