Today, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s dramatic proposal to shift away from coal generation toward renewable energy. In authorizing the company’s 2016-2030 Integrated Resource Plan (RP-15-21), the Commission directed Xcel to retire two large coal units capable of generating approximately 680 MW each, procure at least 1,ooo MW of wind by 2019, procure at least 650 MW solar by 2020 , begin the process of procuring replacement generation for the coal units in mid-2020s, and acquire at least 400 MW of demand response resources by 2023.
Xcel has already started the wind procurement process with an RFP for up to 1,500 MW issued last month. The required solar resources are likely to be procured through Xcel’s community solar garden program, but Xcel also is authorized to pursue other cost effective solar resources. With respect to other replacement generation for the Sherco 1 and 2 coal units now slated to be shutdown, the Commission authorized Xcel to file a petition for a certificate of need to select replacement resources. Xcel had proposed to build a 750 MW combined cycle gas facility to be located at the Sherco site in Becker, Minnesota, but the Commission determined that a final decision on that proposal and other alternatives (such as additional renewable energy and demand side options) should be made in a subsequent certificate of need proceeding. Longer term, the Commission also directed Xcel to study options and scenarios for orderly and cost effective retirement of its other baseload resources, including two other large coal units and the company’s nuclear fleet.