Xcel CEO Says Retiring the US Coal Fleet ‘Just a Matter of When’

When the CEO of a large coal energy company talks about when not if they will divest from coal, you know it is time.

The utility proposed retiring a third of its remaining coal fleet. Xcel Energy Colorado submitted an electric resource plan to state regulators Wednesday, calling for a major new build-out of renewable energy resources and the retirement of two coal units, roughly a decade early. Comanche Units 1 and 2 are capable of producing a combined 660 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which represents approximately one-third of Xcel Colorado’s remaining coal fleet. Under the utility’s proposal, the retirements would coincide with adding more than 1,800 megawatts of solar and wind, paired with 275 megawatts of battery storage, and 383 megawatts of existing gas assets. In a business-as-usual scenario, Xcel Colorado would keep the Comanche units in operation and add 450 megawatts of additional energy resources. While the economic benefits of both plans are reasonable, the clean energy proposal is more compelling because “it delivers lower costs along with substantial environmental and renewable energy gains,” the filing states. Ben Fowke, president, chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy, Xcel Colorado’s parent company, teed up the clean energy plan on stage at the EEI Annual Convention in San Diego, shortly before it was officially announced. “We have plans in Colorado…that will have us at a 60 percent carbon reduction and 55 percent renewable energy by 2026,” he said, adding, “at no incremental cost.” At Xcel Energy’s Midwest utilities, “we think we can achieve even more sensational carbon reduction goals,” Fowke said. “We’d like to talk about carbon-free energy by 2030 at 85 percent.” That forward-looking plan includes a major expansion of renewable energy, but it relies on maintaining Xcel’s Midwestern nuclear power plants , he added — noting that he supports "much if not all" of what Exelon CEO Chris Crane had to say about nuclear power. Coal, meanwhile, is on the way out. […]

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