Monopoly Utility (n): see “two-faced”

Date: 24 Oct 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Two weeks ago, I listened – incredulously – to Minnesota’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, suggest that solar energy offers its ratepayers no value as an environmental hedge against carbon emissions or as a price hedge against natural gas fuel price fluctuations.

But just three days later, Xcel was singing a different tune [docket pdf] to the state’s public utilities commission.  In fact, the utility was touting the benefits of its new non-fossil fuel power capacity, because (in the words of James Alder of Xcel Energy):

  • “It provides the Company and its customers a valuable hedge against potential increases in fossil fuel costs.” (p. 9)
  • It avoids emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide (chart on p. 9)
  • It is “strategically located [close to] our largest load center” (p. 10)
  • Without it, “future levels of natural gas consumption and…market purchases [of electricity] would be higher, creating higher cost uncertainty for our customers” (p. 11).  “The price of these energy resources has been extremely volatile.” (p. 12)
  • It “will reduce our exposure to carbon regulation and will lower the cost of compliance with any CO2 goal or target level [like Minnesota 80% reduction by 2050].” (p. 11)

Was “it” solar power?


Xcel was defending a more than 100% cost overrun upgrading one of its two nuclear power plants in Minnesota.

With a utility like this, it’s a wonder that Boulder, CO, is the only Xcel-served city (so far) to switch to a locally-controlled, municipal utility. Who’s next?

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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.