Minnesotans call for clean energy at Xcel Energy hearing

In October, I joined community members, health professionals, students and climate activists in Minneapolis, MN to call on Xcel Energy to secure more renewable energy resources through its 15 year plan, called an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). We rallied outside and then filled the room at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing. Here’s what I said:

Hello, my name is John Delurey – I’m the regional director at Vote Solar, a non-profit organization with members throughout Minnesota dedicated to helping states navigate the clean and equitable energy future.

Thank you to the Administrative Law Judge and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission staff for arranging this opportunity to speak and share my concerns about the Xcel IRP. I also wanted to thank Commissioner Scheurger for his attendance – you being here in person does not go unnoticed.

I am also thankful for all of the other advocates who have already spoken about the fracked gas plants that are in Xcel’s resource plan. Beyond the fundamental injustice of extractive industries, I’ll offer up this reminder: technology gets cheaper, fuels get more expensive.

As somebody who had severe childhood asthma, somebody who remembers what it feels like to lose my ability to breathe, I want to first recognize the company’s vision for early retirement of the coal fleet. Chris Clark spoke at the solar trade association’s meeting this morning and suggested that the company hopes to significantly ramp down these units prior to the deadlines set forth in the IRP. We encourage them to do exactly that, and commit to earlier retirements.

Before I dive in too deep, I wanted to make sure that I shared two of our key concerns. The final Xcel IRP should:

  1. Include an energy efficiency and solar program and carve-out for low-income ratepayers.

  2. Include provisions to incentivize rooftop and community solar, instead of assuming that they will nearly disappear.

We at Vote Solar envision a distributed, resilient, and equitable energy future. This patchwork quilt of energy infrastructure will provide energy choice and ensure that the energy burdened are not left behind. Nowhere is this future closer to reality than in Minnesota, birthplace of the Community Solar gardens and home to early innovators on distributed generation.

Unfortunately, the Xcel IRP does not seem to share this vision. Instead, the IRP doubles down on centralized fracked gas and large, utility-scale solar projects. While we applaud the sheer size of the solar commitments, we are disquieted by the idea that community and rooftop solar essentially flatline in this IRP.  The company’s failure to lean into a decentralized, climate-resilient energy future will be a cost ultimately borne by the ratepayers.

At Vote Solar, we view the climate crisis as one of the great injustices of our time. We also see it as a long-overdue opportunity to reassess our energy economy and ask often overlooked questions: who wins and who loses.

This IRP is a missed opportunity to shift that dynamic and lift up overburdened communities. Vote Solar would like to see dedicated programs for efficiency, solar, and storage for low-income and frontline communities, including ones that utilize on-bill financing and pay-as-you-save models of energy efficiency upgrades. As you likely know, most reports suggest that 20% of eligible households access the federal energy assistance and weatherization programs. The final IRP should explicitly address this gap and we urge the commission to require concrete proposals of Xcel.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share our concerns, and for the commissions ongoing diligence in ensuring a clean, equitable, and distributed energy future.

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