Xcel Energy has prevailed in a battle with another big utility, Minnesota Energy Resources Corp., or MERC, in a battle over who gets to supply natural gas to the Vikings’ sprawling new development in Eagan.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Thursday rejected MERC’s petition to reconsider its July ruling, which found in favor of Xcel. MERC had filed a complaint in April with the PUC, saying Xcel had unjustly poached the 200-acre Vikings development from MERC’s “natural” service territory.
MERC says it stands to lose “million of dollars” because of the Vikings’ deal with Xcel, according to a PUC filing.
The Vikings, now based in Eden Prairie, are building their headquarters and other facilities on 40 acres near the intersection of Dodd Road and Interstate 494. A real estate company owned by the Wilf family — the Vikings’ owners — plans to develop the rest of the site with offices, a conference center, a hotel and 950 multifamily housing units.
MERC, which is owned by Milwaukee-based WEC Energy, claims that Minneapolis-based Xcel is causing an unnecessary duplication of gas services in an area that’s long been served by MERC.
But the PUC, in its July ruling, noted that “unlike electric utilities, Minnesota natural gas utilities do not have exclusive service territories. Given the lack of assigned natural gas service territories, the commission has generally declined to disturb gas customers’ choice of service provider.”
MERC asked the PUC to reconsider its decision, saying it was inconsistent with state law. The Legislature had determined that unnecessary gas service duplication increases costs to consumers, MERC argued.
The company also claimed that Xcel inappropriately discounted its gas rates to the Vikings through promotional incentives that are unavailable to other customers.
The PUC, however, did not agree with MERC. “In short, the commission does not find any circumstance here that would justify interfering with utility competition,” the PUC said in its July ruling. Thursday, the PUC voted 5-0 against reconsidering MERC’s request.
The company, which didn’t immediately return a call for comment, can ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to review the PUC’s decision.
The Vikings complex in Eagan will include a 6,500-seat stadium and outdoor and indoor practice fields, along with a headquarters building. MV Ventures, the real estate arm of Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, plan over the next 15 years to build out 3.25 million square feet for amenities that range from a 500-room hotel to a possible small business incubator.
The new Vikings location formerly was site of the Northwest Airlines headquarters.