Regulators in Minnesota have voted unanimously to issue an order in Xcel Energy’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), directing the utility to procure 2.5GW of new solar by 2030, establish a stakeholder group to address energy equity, and require distributed energy resources like solar to be included in the company’s future resource plans.
Alongside these renewable commitments, the decision also includes no capacity for new gas plants, a considerable win for renewable energy advocates, as the utility had, at one point, proposed three new gas plants in a draft of the IRP.
Influential in driving this decision was the testimony of Vote Solar, The Institute for Local Self Reliance, Cooperative Energy Futures, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, as those organizations advocated for the necessity of widespread distributed solar during the proceedings. The groups submitted written testimony which showed that investing heavily in local solar power is the lowest-cost path for Xcel to meet future electricity demand while also creating local jobs, cleaner air, and more affordable energy bills for Minnesota families.
Under the equity provision of the order, regulators called on Xcel to develop energy efficiency and clean energy programs that ensure equitable access to low income and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color across Minnesota. Xcel has also been directed to work with these communities to ensure that future energy planning advances equity in energy service delivery, workforce hiring, and community benefits.
“Black and brown communities have shouldered the heaviest burdens of our aging fossil fuel infrastructure for far too long,” said General Manager at Cooperative Energy Futures, Timothy DenHerder-Thomas. “As we move forward into a clean energy future, it’s essential that we’re centering the needs of these communities and ensuring that the benefits of renewable energy are distributed equitably.”
As for what this scope of solar means for Xcel’s greater energy portfolio, past reports have outlined that Xcel’s largest single-site solar plant in Minnesota is the North Star project, with a capacity of 100 MW. The state’s largest source of solar power is its Community Solar Garden program, which has 789 MW of capacity across 400 sites.
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