Xcel's success in jamming through legislation to build and own a huge natural gas plant without ever having to show it is economical or needed is a major disappointment to MCEA. This legislation undercuts the Public Utilities Commission, the one body in state government specifically responsible for protecting ratepayers, consumers, and the public as these once-in-a-generation decisions are made.
The renewable energy industry is one of the leading economic growth industries in Minnesota. Clean energy jobs in Minnesota grew 78 percent between 2000 and 2014, compared to the state’s total employment growth of only 11 percent. Prices of wind and solar energy have fallen dramatically in recent years. Xcel and the Legislature have now locked in a $1 billion investment in natural gas, a form of energy that will only get more expensive over time, without any evidence the investment is actually needed or the lowest cost for ratepayers.
The most recent projections show Xcel’s system will need additional power in 2026. There is no need to make a rash $1 billion decision now, with no way to know how much power will be needed in a decade or what types of generation will be the cheapest. This is a legislative giveaway to boost a corporate bottom line, done at the expense of ratepayers.
We certainly hope this will not become a precedent for future utility infrastructure decisions. MCEA, along with many other stakeholders, participated in good faith in extensive proceedings at the Commission that resulted in Xcel Energy’s most recent Resource Plan being approved. As a result, Xcel was invited to apply for a certificate of need for new generation. The process that protects ratepayers was working, and this legislation undermined it.
Xcel Energy is a monopoly. As a result, its customers rely on the oversight of the Public Utilities Commission to keep the company in check. This legislation bypasses the important role of the PUC and puts customers on the hook for a $1 billion natural gas plant that may be unnecessary. While we look forward to standing alongside the Governor to support the Public Utilities Commission’s ability to protect ratepayers and in support of the proposed increase in the renewable energy standard, today’s decision is truly disappointing.