December 15, 2019


Xcel sees financial payoff in push for wind-power development (LEE SCHAFER, 11/30/19, Star-Tribune)

On the last Friday before Thanksgiving, Xcel Energy filed a document with Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission called a Renewable Energy Standard Rider. In two read-throughs, a reasonably informed layperson would have only an even-money shot at understanding it.

The gist, though, is that Minneapolis-based Xcel asked regulators to approve bringing more than $100 million of wind-energy projects into the calculations of regulated electricity rates. And the news is that the new power will be cheaper.

"People tend to focus on what goes up and not what goes down," said Chris Clark, president of the Xcel's Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota region. "That wind coming into service is actually displacing other generation sources, so we are actually saving customers money with the wind we're bringing on to the system."

An unconscious focus on only what increases in price doesn't really explain the intensity of arguments over electric energy, which can seem more like the Wars of Religion than a discussion of costs. Yet the case the industry makes -- renewables are cheap enough, and getting cheaper -- is getting clearer in the latest numbers.

"The pricing that we are seeing on this build-out that we are doing -- and we are doing one of the largest build-outs in the nation of wind -- is substantially undercutting the price of our coal units," Clark said. "We had thought it would be mixing it up with them, but it is actually undercutting the coal units."

The cost to generate electricity from the new wind projects falls in the range of $15 per megawatt hour to $25, Clark said. The same electricity from a coal-fired generating station costs between $25 and $35 per megawatt hour.

Posted by at December 15, 2019 11:13 AM