Regulators OK Xcel Energy plan to shut down two coal power plants

Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco)

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a plan by Xcel Energy to shut down two coal-fired power plants in Becker, Minnesota, by 2026.

However, the commission did not approve Xcel’s plan to replace at least some of that lost generation by building a 786 MW combined-cycle gas-fired plant on the site of the coal plants, reported the Star Tribune.

The commission directed Xcel to submit an alternate plan to replace the lost generation that would incorporate renewable energy alternatives along with the gas plant. Additionally, the commission asked Xcel to find ways to reduce demand, such as measures to reduce customer energy use.

“There’s a process we need to go through to make sure we are not missing something,” PUC Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said Thursday.

The commission estimated there will be a need for an additional 750 MW of power generation capacity when the second coal generator is closed.

The two Sherco coal plants, which generate 682 MW each, were targeted for closure by Xcel a year ago. They’re currently Xcel’s largest power plants in Minnesota.

“Today’s decision gives a clear path as we advance our filing for a gas combined cycle unit at the [Sherco] site, which we are confident is the best resource for our customers and the reliability of our system,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel’s Minnesota operations.

At the same meeting, the commission approved Xcel’s plan to acquire 1,000 MW of wind power by 2019. Last month, Xcel announced it would expand its wind power capacity by 1,500 MW, or 60 percent.

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