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Colorado, Minnesota resource plans driving Xcel's carbon-free goal by 2050

Highlights

Reached 51% reduced emissions from 2005 levels in Q1

Colorado, Minnesota plans add 10.85 GW renewables

About 800 MW wind capacity to come online in 2021

Xcel Energy is more than halfway to its goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 and recently filed a proposal to add more than 5 GW of renewable energy in Colorado that will accelerate coal plant retirements, officials said April 29.

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Xcel reported 2021 first quarter GAAP and ongoing earnings of $362 million, or 67 cents/share, up 20% from Q1 2020, which reflect higher electric and natural gas margins, which more than offset additional depreciation, interest charges and less allowance for funds used during construction, said Brian Van Abel, executive VP and CFO, during the company's Q1 earnings call.

"We reaffirmed our guidance range and remain confident we can deliver long-term earnings and dividend growth within our 5% to 7% objective range," Van Abel said.

Despite strong operational performance in Q1, Xcel incurred $1 billion of incremental fuel costs during Winter Storm Uri and is in the process of seeking recovery for incremental fuel cost, Chairman and CEO Ben Fowke said.

"We'll propose to defer the cost recovery over a year or two to mitigate the impact on our customers," Fowke said.

Colorado Plan

Xcel filed its Colorado resource plan in March that strives for an 85% carbon reduction by 2030 and calls a full coal exit by 2040.

The plan calls for the early retirement of Hayden coal plant units 1 and 2 in 2028 and 2027, respectively, according to Xcel. The 505-MW, coal-fired Pawnee Generating Station will be converted to natural gas in 2028, while the 500-MW coal-fired Comanche-3 will retire early in 2040 with reduced operations beginning in 2030.

After not generating any power for 10 straight months in 2020, Comanche-3 generated 438,159 MWh in February 2021, the most for the corresponding month since 442,263 MWh in February 2013, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

The Colorado plan will add 2.3 GW of wind capacity, 1.6 GW of universal scale solar, 400 MW of storage capacity, 1.3 GW in flexible resources and 1.2 GW of distributed solar.

"We also filed our pathway transmission expansion plan in Colorado," Fowke said about the $1.7 billion Colorado Pathway Transmission Expansion. "The proposal requests approval to build 560 miles of 345 kV transmission lines creating a backbone that will enable 5,500 MW of incremental renewables and help Colorado achieve its 2030 carbon reduction goals."

Xcel filed the project in March and anticipates a decision in Q4, "which will provide transparency into our long-term opportunities and will likely lead to robust capital investment in the second half of the decade," Van Abel said about the Colorado plans.

Proposed Colorado Resource Plan

March : filed

Q4 : anticipated decision

Full coal exit by 2040

Plant

Capacity (MW)

Hayden 1 & 2

223

Pawnee

505

Comanche 3

500

Significant renewable additions

Resource

Capacity (MW)

Wind

~2,300

Universal scale solar

~1,600

Distributed solar

~1,200

Firm peaking capacity

Resource

Capacity (MW)

Flexible resources

~1,300

Storage

~400

Source: Xcel Energy

Minnesota plan

Progress is being made on the Minnesota resource plan, which calls for 80% carbon reductions and an end to coal by 2030. The plan includes the 2028 retirement of the 511-MW coal-fired King plant and 2030 retirement of the 517-MW coal-fired Sherco-3.

The utility's five coal plants took delivery of 11.22 million st of coal in 2020 at an average delivered cost of $30.64/st, down from 16.3 million st at $31.70/st a year earlier, according to EIA data. Over 89% of the coal came from the Powder River Basin in 2020, while the remaining coal was shipped from Colorado mines.

The plan also includes renewables additions of 3.5 GW of universal scale solar and 2.25 GW of wind, in addition to 2.6 GW of firm peaking capacity essential for reliability.

The plan also would extend the Monticello nuclear plant to 2040 and calls for about 800 MW of natural gas combine cycle capacity for reliability.

"Between the Minnesota and Colorado resource plans, we anticipate adding nearly 10,000 megawatts of renewables to our system to meet our 80% carbon reduction goal by 2030," Fowke said.

Proposed Minnesota Resource Plan

Jun : Updated filing

Oct-June : discovery/comments

H2-21 : commission decision

Full coal exit by 2030

Plant

Capacity (MW)

Date

King

511

retire 2028

Sherco 3

517

retire 2030

Significant renewable additions

Resource

Capacity (MW)

Universal scale solar

3,500

Wind

2,250

Other

Capacity

Firm peaking capacity

2600 MW

Nuclear extension

Monticello to 2040

Natural gas CC

~800 MW for reliability

Source: Xcel Energy

Renewables

Xcel has nearly 4 GW of wind capacity currently in service across its footprint with about 800 MW to be added in 2021.

The utility proposed roughly $785 million in additional wind and solar projects, including buying out a repowered 120-MW wind PPA from ALLETE and building roughly 460-MW of solar near the retiring Sherco Coal plant.

"The project takes advantage of existing transmission and will bring good, high-paying local construction jobs to our economy," Fowke said. "We requested a commission decision on both projects later this year and are confident the commission will see the customer and economic benefits."

In March, Xcel closed on the acquisition of the 99-MW repowered Mower wind farm, Van Abel said.

Xcel wind development

In service pre-2020

Capacity (MW)

Boder

150

Courtenay

200

Grand Meadow

100

Nobles

200

Pleasant Valley

200

Rush Creek

600

Hale

478

Lake Benton

100

Foxtail

150

Total:

2,178

In service in 2020

Capacity (MW)

Blazing Star 1

200

Cheyenne Ridge

500

Crowned Ridge

200

Sagamore

522

Jeffers

44

Community North

26

Total:

1,492

To be in service 2021

Capacity (MW)

Mower

99

Blasing Star 2

200

Freeborn

200

Dakota Range

300

Total:

799

Source: Xcel Energy

Sales and expenses

"Weather and leap year adjusted electric sales declined by 1.9% in the first quarter," Van Abel said. "Our sales forecast assumed that there was a lingering impact from COVID-19, and we expected a slight decline in Q1. However, the adverse impacts of COVID on sales were largely felt starting in the second quarter of last year."

As a result, Xcel anticipates a positive quarter-over-quarter sales comparison in Q2, and continues to anticipate modest weather-adjusted sales growth of approximately 1% for the year, Van Abel said.

Operations & maintenance increased slightly in Q1 and Xcel expects annual O&M expenses to be relatively flat in 2021, reflecting incremental costs for new wind farms, offset by a decline in base O&M, Van Abel said.