Xcel faced big regulatory issues last year, including a still-pending request to raise rates for its 1.2 million Minnesota electric customers. The utility set up a program that allows community solar gardens whose output will be shared by customers who subscribe. State regulators investigated whether Xcel prudently invested $665 million in its oldest nuclear reactor at Monticello, Minn.

What happened: Xcel made progress on renewable energy, pushing ahead with new wind farms and accepting proposals for solar parks. Some regulatory issues remained unresolved, including federal rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions that could affect the future of Xcel's coal-burning power plants. Sparby decided to retire at the end of 2014 after 33 years with Xcel.