Solar Advocates Celebrate Decision on Xcel Energy Resource Plan
Public Utilities Commission mandates 2.5 gigawatts of solar by 2030 and no new gas
Through a unanimous vote, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Xcel Energy’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), with a number of meaningful climate and renewable energy mandates. The decision includes a target of 2.5 gigawatts of new solar by 2030, a rejection of additional gas plants, 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,” says 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,” says 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.”
“This pathbreaking order will have an impact far beyond Minnesota,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney Brad Klein. “Requiring utilities consider distributed energy resources in their planning sets the new standard that other states will look to as the nation moves to renewable energy.”
The PUC’s decision 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,” says 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.