Xcel Energy has proposed closing two coal-fired power generators in Colorado in the 2020s, and investing up to $2.5 billion there in new electricity production from renewable resources and natural gas.
The proposal comes on the heels of Xcel's plans in Minnesota to shutter two large coal-fired generators in Becker, Minn., as the Minneapolis-based company sheds resources that can cost more to run and are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Coal plants kick out about twice as many greenhouse gases as natural gas generators.
Xcel is Colorado's largest utility, and the state is one of Xcel's two largest markets, along with Minnesota. The company this week filed its new energy plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Xcel proposes retiring two coal generators at its Comanche Station in Pueblo, which together have a capacity of 660 megawatts. (A megawatt is 1 million watts). The generators would close by the end of 2022 and 2025, a decade ahead of their previously planned retirements. A third and much newer coal-fired generator in Pueblo — of which Xcel has majority ownership — would stay.
As for new electricity generation, Xcel would conduct a competitive bidding process with targets of up to 1,000 megawatts of wind energy, and up to 700 megawatts each of natural gas and solar power. That would replace the lost generation from the coal plants, as well as fill a 450-megawatt need for new generation.
Xcel said all the new generation would equal power needs going forward.
Xcel said it would spend up to $2.5 billion on the new resources if there's no additional cost to its electricity customers in Colorado. "This does have to be cost effective for our customers or Comanche 1 and 2 would stay open," said Mark Stutz, an Xcel spokesman.
The company's Colorado plan has the support of 14 interest groups, including renewable energy and consumer advocates, businesses and organized labor. However, news reports in Colorado this week noted that some GOP lawmakers voiced opposition to Xcel's plan, saying that coal has been dependable, and that solar and wind power get federal tax subsidies.
Xcel relied on coal for 47 percent of its power generation in Colorado last year, according to federal securities filings. Natural gas comprised 25 percent of Xcel's power mix there, and wind 24 percent. In Minnesota last year, Xcel got 28 percent of its power from coal; 30 percent from nuclear; 16 percent each from wind and natural gas, and the rest from other sources.
Xcel plans to close its Becker coal generators — each with a capacity of 680 megawatts — in 2023 and 2026. The company will replace some of that lost power with a 786-megawatt natural gas plant in Becker. Xcel also plans to add 1,500 megawatts in new wind energy capacity in Minnesota and the Dakotas over the next few years.