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Xcel Colorado goes all in on transmission

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On Tuesday, Xcel Colorado announced a $1.7 billion transmission plan. The stated goal of the project is to pave the way for 5,500 MW of mostly renewable projects. The utility is proposing a 560 miles, 245 Kv transmission line that would connect rural, renewable rich areas to high energy consuming urban centers. Xcel claims the project will enable them to reduce their Colorado emissions by 85% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. 

The transmission proposal fits into Xcel’s company wide goal of being carbon free by 2050. The utility has been one of the industry’s most ambitious carbon cutters for years now. However, the ambitions of Xcel and many other do-gooders in the power landscape pail in comparison to those of President Joe Biden, who recently announced a plan to get the grid carbon free by 2035. 

Whether the grid goes green by 2035 or 2050, one thing is certain: The country is going to need a lot more transmission projects like this one. This isn't a provocative insight … countless utility studies on the adoption of renewables have come to the same conclusion. Take the CapX2050, for example. The study put together by 10 major upper-midwest utilities, including Xcel and Great River Energy, predicted the need for major transmission upgrades in the region:

“Currently, Minnesota gets around 20% of its electricity from wind and just over 1% from solar. But those numbers are expected to surge as utilities pursue aggressive carbon reduction goals to 2050, partly through early retirements of the grid’s historic bedrock — coal plants.”

“More money will be needed for more transmission lines, too, and not only because wind and solar farms are geographically dispersed. As coal-fired plants close, more transmission will be needed to ship excess renewable power from one point on the grid to another point that needs it.” 

Hopefully this move by Xcel is the first of many big transmission investments to come.


 

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