In 2019, SECC will be recognizing a member each month, providing an organizational profile and highlighting the member's accomplishments and output in the smart energy space.
Xcel Energy Inc. is a utility holding company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serving more than 3.3 million electric customers and 1.8 million natural gas customers in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. It consists of four operating subsidiaries: Northern States Power-Minnesota, Northern States Power-Wisconsin, Public Service Company of Colorado and Southwestern Public Service Co.
In December 2018, Xcel announced it would deliver 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity by 2050, with an 80 percent carbon reduction by 2035 (from 2005 levels). Xcel Energy will retire 50 percent of its coal-powered capacity from 2005 to 2026, replacing it with a combination of renewables, energy efficiency and natural gas. This makes Xcel the first major U.S. utility to set such a goal.
Wind is a critical component towards Xcel Energy’s diverse energy portfolio, helping reduce emissions, which helps reduce future environmental risks and costs. The renewable investments are part of what Xcel calls its “steel for fuel” strategy, shifting from fossil fuel generation to renewables. Currently Xcel Energy is at 6514 MW of Installed Capacity, which is currently 20.6 percent of the company’s generation mix. Xcel Energy plans to add 12 wind farms in seven states, leading to more than 11 GW on its system by 2021. Texas and New Mexico regulators approved the company’s $1.6 billion, 1.2 GW wind expansion plan in 2018. The 478 MW Hale project near Plainview, Texas and 522 MW Sagamore facility near Portales, New Mexico are expected online in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Overall, the Colorado Energy Plan will invest $2.5 billion in eight counties to add more than 1,100 megawatts of wind generation, more than 700 megawatts of solar generation, and 275 megawatts of large-scale battery storage. Xcel Energy will retire two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo and will invest about $1 billion to acquire 500 megawatts of new wind generation and 375 megawatts of existing natural gas generation. The remaining investment, more than half of the total, will be made by independent power producers whose wind, solar and storage projects will sell electricity to Xcel Energy.
The plan will provide over $200 million worth of savings for customers compared to the alternatives, while reducing carbon emissions nearly 60 percent and increasing renewable energy sources to 55 percent of Xcel’s energy mix by 2026 in the state. Part of this landmark agreement included solar interests that will continue to grow rooftop solar, and it also set in motion a time-of-use (TOU) rate pilot. In addition to these efforts, the company is undertaking some storage pilot projects.
In December 2018, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CO PUC) took a major step toward advancing the state’s use of battery storage, adopting an order to help integrate procurement mechanisms into utilities’ long-term planning process.
In 2017, Xcel Energy got approval for Advanced Grid Intelligence and Security (AGIS) proposal, which includes tools that enable consumers to control their energy usage and allows the utility to collect data and control the two-way flow of energy from distributed energy resources.
Xcel Energy is also working with the CO PUC on future EV initiatives and expects to submit related fillings in 2019. The AMI implementation will begin in 2019 and finish around 2024, with installment of over one million residential smart meters.
Xcel's Minnesota subsidiary, Northern States Power, is also taking significant clean energy and grid modernization steps. The company's 300 MW Dakota Range wind energy project was approved by the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, and in June 2018, Minnesota regulators also approved Xcel's residential TOU pilot, which is expected to launch in 2020 and has garnered praise from a range of stakeholders.
Northern States Power also filed a $25 million plan with the Minnesota PUC in October to support broader use of electric vehicles. The plans include a fast-charging corridor pilot; a monthly subscription that offers a set bill for charging and equipment, along with incentives to charge overnight; and a charging network.
In October 2018, Xcel Energy partnered with Google to help customers manage their energy use and develop new ways for customers to access account information and personalized energy management. The partnership will allow customers to access information about improving energy efficiency in their homes.
Xcel Energy also launched an easy way for residential and small business customers to go solar with the Renewable*Connect program. The energy will come from a 50 MW solar array being built in Deer Trail, Colo. Customers may cover up to 100 percent of their energy use by choosing to buy solar energy from the solar field month-to-month, or over a five-year or 10-year contract term. While the length of the contract is flexible, the pricing schedule is set for the life of the contract.
Renewable*Connect takes advantage of today's market-based pricing for solar energy and does not need subsidies from other customers. Subscribers get full credit for using solar energy with a chance to save money with a long-term contract. The program was released in multiple tranches starting with residential customers, and the enrollment of the program was able to sell-out within a matter of days of being released. There was particular strong demand coming from the small business community.