Through a unanimous vote, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued an order in Xcel Energy’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The decision includes a target of 2.5-GW of new solar by 2030, a requirement that Xcel Energy establish a stakeholder group to address energy equity, and a requirement that distributed energy resources like solar be included in the company’s future resource plans.
“The fact that no new gas plants were approved is a major victory for Minnesota’s clean energy future,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest regulatory director at Vote Solar. “Existing fossil gas generation will be replaced by hundreds of megawatts of clean energy — leading to cleaner air, healthier communities and grid reliability. We and our allies will continue to watch closely, to ensure that Xcel’s progress on clean energy continues to move in the right direction.”
During the proceedings, a group of clean energy advocacy groups — Vote Solar, The Institute for Local Self Reliance, Cooperative Energy Futures, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center — highlighted the need for widespread distributed solar. In their written testimony to the PUC, the groups demonstrated that investing heavily in local solar power is the lowest-cost path for Xcel to meet future electricity demand. In addition to being more economically sound than fossil gas infrastructure, scaling up renewable energy and storage means local jobs, cleaner air and more affordable energy bills for Minnesota families.
“Distributed solar has a huge role to play in our transition to a fossil-free economy,” said John Farrell, co-director at the Institute for Local Self Reliance. “By requiring Xcel to model distributed solar as a resource in its next integrated resource plan, the Commission has acknowledged its profound value. While a specific distributed generation target would have been ideal, this is an important step toward achieving affordable and equitable clean energy for all Minnesotans.”
The PUC’s order also includes notable equity provisions. The order requires Xcel Energy to develop energy efficiency and clean energy programs that ensure equitable access to low income and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color across Minnesota. Additionally, Xcel must work with communities to ensure that future energy planning advances equity in energy service delivery, workforce hiring, and community benefits.
“Black and brown communities have shouldered the heaviest burdens of our aging fossil fuel infrastructure for far too long,” said Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, general manager at Cooperative Energy Futures. “As we move forward into a clean energy future, it’s essential that we’re centering the needs of these communities and ensuring that the benefits of renewable energy are distributed equitably.”
Xcel Energy’s IRP has garnered widespread public attention. Last summer, following significant public pressure, Xcel Energy dropped plans to build an 800 MW gas-fired combined cycle power plant. However, the company continued to push for two new gas-fired peaker plants, despite evidence that additional fossil fuel infrastructure is unnecessary and would cause further environmental harms to already overburdened communities.
News item from Vote Solar