Jun 30, 2020

Clean Energy Organizations Oppose Another Minnesota Power Delay

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PRESS RELEASE: 6/30/2020                               Contact: JT Haines, Northern Minnesota Advocate

Duluth, Minnesota -- Today, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (representing itself, Fresh Energy, Clean Grid Alliance, and the Sierra Club) filed its opposition to Minnesota Power’s request to once again delay the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process. On May 15, 2020, investor-owned utility Minnesota Power requested a third extension despite the PUC’s rule that IRP’s be filed every two years. Minnesota Power last filed an IRP on September 1, 2015. 

The IRP process requires utilities to “consider important public policy considerations when making resource decisions, such as the environmental and socioeconomic effect of different energy-generation resources.” By continuing to delay the next IRP, Minnesota Power is in effect refusing to “show its math” about the types of opportunities in this sector that have been working elsewhere. Urgency around these filings has only increased in light of moves across the country to faster adoption of renewable energy. 

Minnesotans have waited too long already for information about the key matters that will be addressed in the IRP, including:

  • The setting of a closing date for Boswell 3 and 4, the largest coal plant in Minnesota without a set retirement date
  • Evaluation of the most cost-effective ways to meet customers’ needs, including evaluation of clean energy alternatives to coal and gas
  • Evaluation of future scenarios in which Minnesota Power’s proposed new “NTEC” gas plant is not built
  • Projections about demand
  • Limiting the operation of Boswell 3 and 4 to only those periods when operation is economic as Xcel Energy recently announced for its Sherco units. 

 

Evan Mulholland, Senior Staff Attorney for the MCEA, issued this statement:

We need a plan for the future. We need a plan for the closure of Boswell that includes support for the workers at the plant and for the host community of Cohasset. And we need a plan for faster adoption of renewables. We are excited for this IRP. We think it’s going to show that more wind and solar and storage are going to be better for everyone. Delay is not in the interest of customers or the public. The PUC should deny this -- yet another -- delay request.

 

Jessica Tritsch, Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy Campaign, stated:

Minnesota Power has dragged their feet for long enough, asking for extension after extension on an IRP filing that was originally due in 2018. The Northland needs to know what their energy future looks like, and where their money is going, especially if Minnesota Power expects to tackle the ongoing climate crisis. Customers cannot afford yet another delay from Minnesota Power.

 

Additional Background: 

Coal plants across the country are closing because they are more expensive to run than clean, renewable energy. Last month, Great River Energy announced it would close its Coal Creek plant in North Dakota in 2022 and replace it with wind. Utilities like Great River, Southern Minnesota Energy Cooperative, and Vectren Energy in Indiana -- a CenterPoint affiliate with a similar load mix to Minnesota Power -- have all recently announced dramatic moves towards renewable energy, while Minnesota Power drags its heels.

Emerging data is showing that adoption of these energy sources is cheaper for the customers and better for the planet. By not moving forward, Minnesota Power is subjecting Minnesota consumers and businesses to tremendous uncertainty. 

And, while the COVID-19 crisis has injected uncertainty into electricity demand forecasts, such uncertainty is common in the fifteen-year planning window required in IRPs. Such uncertainty can be addressed through modeling, and uncertainty about what the future holds is not a reason to delay planning for it. 

MCEA filed its comments in opposition to Minnesota Power’s request for delay with the PUC this afternoon and they are available on the PUC eDockets site and by request.

 

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