Interview with Xcel Energy
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- Nov 24, 2019 4:59 pm GMTNov 24, 2019 4:59 pm GMT
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Carbon neutral, sustainability and renewable. Such words having become increasingly commonplace among utility professionals in recent years. There’s no mystery as to why—the world needs to power itself differently if we hope to mitigate the effects of climate change. In response to the new mood, many electric companies have put forth plans to reduce their carbon footprints. Some of these proposals come off as genuine and intelligent, while others stink of PR gimmick. Xcel Energy’s plans, at least to this observer, seems to fit into the former camp. I reached out to the utility to gain some insights into their corporate wide carbon cutting efforts as well as more specific details related to the Colorado division.
- Xcel Colorado announced some ambitious energy goals in 2019. What spurred the utility's interests in cutting its carbon footprint and what specifically informed those predictions?
Given the pace of change happening within our industry and the risk of climate change, we see an opportunity to transform our energy supply and significantly lower carbon emissions at a low cost to customers.
In 2018 Xcel Energy announced our corporate wide plan to reduce our carbon emissions 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2030 and committed to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. We expect our approved Colorado Energy Plan to achieve a 60% carbon emissions reduction and to deliver 55% renewable energy by 2026 in Colorado.
Current advancements in wind and solar energy, along with natural gas, battery storage and nuclear power are making it possible for us to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 corporate-wide, while keeping electricity reliable and bills affordable. In order to eliminate that last 20 percent of carbon on our system, we will need new carbon-free technologies that are available 24/7 to emerge. Some options we are exploring include carbon capture, power to gas, deep rock geothermal, advanced nuclear and seasonal storage.
- What have the utility's renewable efforts looked like to date and how will they look in the coming decade?
Renewables are currently 28% of our Colorado energy mix, and under the Colorado Energy Plan, we expect renewable energy to be 55% of our energy mix by 2026. Company-wide, renewables are 25% of our energy mix, and we estimate they will provide up to 60% of our generation by 2030 as we advance new plans to achieve our 80% carbon goal.
- Does Colorado's climate make renewables more practical than they are in other parts of the world?
Xcel Energy is fortunate to operate in states, including Colorado, that have excellent wind and solar resources for generating electricity.
- As the utility incorporates more renewables into its energy portfolio, how will it continue to ensure reliability?
Xcel Energy is committed to offering carbon-free electricity within the guardrails of reliability and affordability. We will need new carbon-free technologies that are available 24/7 to achieve our 100% carbon-free aspiration by 2050. We are confident that the technology will develop, and we continue to encourage R & D and public policy that incents this type of innovation.
- In addition to relying more on renewables, are there plans to implement technologies/programs to boost energy efficiency?
All technologies must be on the table. We will need a diverse energy mix including nuclear, renewables and new technologies that enable renewables to maintain reliable, affordable energy. This includes carbon-free 24/7 resources to integrate high-levels of wind and solar (60 percent or higher), balancing the peaks when customer use exceeds renewable generation and valleys when renewable generation exceeds customer use.
Additionally, Xcel Energy will continue to look for innovative ways to help customers control their energy usage (and their bills) with optional energy efficiency programs.
With our advanced grid initiative, Xcel Energy will be installing about 1.5 million advanced meters in Colorado over the next five years. The new technology is ultimately expected to be able to generate real-time energy usage information for homes and businesses, in order to help customers, save electricity and money. Smart meters and the support for innovative new apps are an important step in Xcel Energy’s efforts toward building an advanced electrical grid that will supply clean, reliable energy and provide customers with new ways to save money and control their energy usage. Xcel Energy plans to eventually install smart meters throughout its entire service territory, subject to regulatory approval.
- How important is it to keep your customers educated on the changes taking place?
Stakeholders, including customers, are an important part of our energy future and achieving our goals. We are leading the clean energy transition, but we cannot do it alone. Empowering customers to be a part of that shift is important to our success. Xcel Energy works closely with state regulators and stakeholders in the states we serve to support local priorities, and our carbon reductions will be accomplished through the resource planning process in each state.
We intend to continue engaging with our stakeholders and customers to achieve our clean energy goals.