My testimony on Xcel Energy’s 15-year plan

house-on-fire

MNIPL Board Member John Dunlop delivered this testimony a public hearing on Xcel Energy’s proposed 15-year plan in St. Cloud, MN on October 23, 2019. The outcome of Xcel’s 15-Year Energy Plan or (IRP) will determine whether this 70% of Xcel’s power will be replaced with more nuclear, fracked natural gas, and monopoly-owned wind and solar, or whether communities will be empowered to lead the transition to distributed, community-owned clean energy. 

It is very appropriate to be holding this Public Hearing in St. Cloud. The Xcel Integrated Resource Plan is SO Minnesotan. The Plan is like the people in nearby Lake Wobegon – barely above average. Xcel goes to great length to congratulate itself for proposing a plan that contains “some of the most ambitious carbon reduction goals of any utility in the U.S.” The company is pleased that the plan exceeds mediocrity.

The planet is on fire. The earth is experiencing rampant global warming. We are in a CLIMATE CRISIS. This mediocre plan will ensure that we will leave our kids and their kids a world that is uninhabitable as we know it.

We do not have until 2050 to eliminate carbon emissions from electricity generation. The climate crisis demands that power for the electricity, transportation and new buildings sectors must be carbon-free within ten years.

We need explosive increases in electricity supplied by the incredibly low-cost wind and solar resources that are available in the Midwest.

But there is a major problem that is NOT addressed by this Plan: We do not have transmission capacity to transport additional electricity from the areas of strong wind and solar resources to the towns and cities where we live.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which oversees the electric transmission grid from the Hudson Bay in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, reports that today their “western territory” (from North Dakota to Wisconsin and Iowa) is already at capacity.

Transmission planning, permitting and construction is a laborious process. Nothing is included in MISO plans to accommodate the thousands of megawatts of wind and solar that MUST be added to our electricity supply within the next decade. It is no wonder that the Xcel IRP doesn’t expect new wind power plants – just replacement wind power for retired turbines – and it doesn’t anticipate adding solar until after 2025.

The Xcel IRP MUST include plans to work with other utilities to build robust transmission lines to access low-cost renewables. Building new carbon-emitting natural gas plants as a bridge to renewables becomes unnecessary if we have a strong transmission network.

Dr. James McCalley from Iowa State University testified in August that we need MORE than a robust regional grid. We need a national network of high voltage direct current (HVDC) power lines that would access to abundant renewable energy resources by Americans coast to coast.

The Xcel IRP should include a commitment to work with MISO and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build an HVDC transmission system that will help the entire country to cost-effectively eliminate carbon from electricity production.

John Dunlop