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Xcel Energy accelerates clean energy transition, coal exit in Colorado


Plans 5,100 MW of additional renewables by 2030

560 miles of 345-kV transmission lines

  • Author
  • Garrett Hering    S&P Global Market Intelligence
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  • Rocco Canonica
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power Energy Transition
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  • Energy Transition Environment and Sustainability

Aiming to slash carbon-dioxide emissions 85% by 2030 from 2005 levels, Xcel Energy Inc. on March 31 pitched Colorado energy regulators a sweeping clean energy transition that would accelerate subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado's move away from coal-fired generation by leaning more heavily on new wind, solar and energy storage resources.

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"This resource plan is the largest and most climate-driven proposal brought forward in our company's history," Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy's Colorado affiliate, said in written testimony to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on the utility's 2021 clean energy plan.

The company's preferred procurement scenario includes the addition of roughly 5,100 MW of renewable energy resources by 2030, including 2,300 MW of wind power, 1,600 MW of large-scale solar and 1,200 MW of distributed solar, as well as 400 MW of battery storage and 1,300 MW of "flexible dispatchable generation."

The flexible generation could be natural gas or other resources selected through an all-source request for proposals.

Xcel Energy also wants to build 560 miles of 345-kV transmission lines to harness renewable energy resources in Colorado's eastern plains for demand in population centers in the Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Boulder and Fort Collins areas.

In total, Xcel Energy proposes spending almost $5.4 billion on generation resources and $1.7 billion on transmission. The utility estimates an average annual rate impact of 2.6% between 2024 and 2030.

The utility envisions a series of actions to end the role of coal in its power mix, and reiterated several conversions and plant retirements it had previously announced. It would convert the 505-MW Pawnee Generating Station to natural gas by 2028 and reduce the capacity of the 1,426-MW Comanche Generating Station's Unit 3 by a third by 2030, ahead of full retirement in 2040, three decades ahead of schedule.

The Pawnee conversion to gas "minimizes the workforce transition and community impacts of a standalone accelerated retirement in Morgan County [Colo.], while also providing our system with a dispatchable generator to provide critical system reliability," Jackson said.

Xcel Energy also recommended securitizing the undepreciated balance of Comanche, in Pueblo County, Colo., upon retirement. Jackson said the move "strikes the right balance between emission reductions, reliability, and cost for our customers and the state."

Xcel Energy has also negotiated accelerated retirement timelines with the co-owners of several other coal-fired power plants. Under the plan, unit 2 of the 1,285-MW Craig (Yampa) station in Moffat County, Colo., would be retired by 2028, and units 1 and 2 at the 441-MW Hayden power plant in Routt County, Colo., would be shut by 2028 and 2027, respectively.

A decision on the plan could come by the end of 2021, with a solicitation for new resources in 2022.