Chris Clark, Xcel Energy's president for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, will retire in March.

Clark has held the key leadership role for Xcel since 2015, during a period of massive change in the energy industry. Xcel has been a leader as utilities across the country started taking bigger steps away from fossil fuels as a response to climate change.

"I want to thank Chris for his tremendous contributions to the company," said Bob Frenzel, Xcel Energy's chief executive, in a written statement. "He helped lead the nation's clean-energy transition and was instrumental in driving our wind leadership to new heights in the Upper Midwest."

Ryan Long, who joined Xcel in 2015 and is currently interim general counsel, will take over Clark's current role on Jan. 1. Clark will remain as a consultant until his March retirement.

Xcel jumped from 2,216 megawatts of wind in its Upper Midwest energy mix in 2015 to 4,515 megawatts in 2022, according to the utility. The company also went from just 26 megawatts of solar to 1,343 megawatts in that time frame.

In 2018, Xcel announced a goal to provide carbon-free electricity by 2050, the first major utility in the country to do so. This year, Xcel backed Minnesota's new law steering utilities toward a carbon-free grid a decade earlier than the utility had planned.

The company has made plans to shut down all of its coal plants in Minnesota, the first by the end of this year, while adding renewable energy production — like at a massive solar complex in Sherburne County — and transmission capacity in the state.

"We're already going to be building the state's largest solar project right next to our closing coal plant," Clark said during a February press conference held by DFL elected officials celebrating passage of the bill. "We have a lot to do and very little time to do it, but we're going to get it done."

Clark was hired by Xcel in 1999, working as a senior attorney and as vice president of regulatory affairs.