Updated 12:40 pm | Posted 10:30 am
Xcel Energy said on Monday it plans to close its two remaining coal mines in the Upper Midwest ten years earlier than planned, and set the tool to be carbonless in the region by 2030.
The company said It also intends to keep its nuclear power plant in Monticello, Minn., which goes to at least 2040 – 10 years after the end of its current license – as it expands wind and solar energy.
Xcel said it will send its plan to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in July. If approved, the company said it would cut carbon emissions in the region by more than 80 percent by 2030, compared to 2005.
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Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said the changes would not lead to significantly higher customer service costs.
"We think we can do this at or below the cost of inflation," Fowke told reporters on a Monday morning phone call. "It's not going to be free, but it's going to be cheap and more important, it compares very well to other alternative plans."
Under Xcel's proposal, Sherco 3, the region's final coal plant, would close in 2030 after the closure of the Allen S. King coal plant in Oak Park Heights in 2028.
The plan includes Xcels previously announced plans to purchase the Mankato Energy Center natural gas plant. and plans to build a natural gas plant in Becker, home to Sherco plants.
Xcel owns thousands of acres of land around Sherco. Becker and Xcel have been working to bring new companies to fill that space and replace some of the jobs that will be lost when the coal generators are retired. The city is working to land a Google data center.
Environmental and renewable energy storage companies applaud Xcel's Monday campaign to speed up coal mines, although it was unclear whether they also supported the tool's plan to expand its nuclear operation. 1[ads1]9659004]
Although nuclear power is carbon-free, it generates radioactive waste that must be stored on site.
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Clean energy groups have only approved the coal pension dates, not the nuclear power plan or the overall resource plan, which has not been released, said Allen Gleckner senior energy market leader and regulatory affairs group Fresh Energy.
Minnesota has two nuclear power plants in operation – Prairie Island, near Red Wing, Minn., And Monticello. Both are owned by Xcel with licenses that will expire in the 2030s.
Xcels movement to attempt to extend its license at the Monticello nuclear power plant, while also moving the retirement dates for two coal plants was part of an overall settlement with environmental groups over the acquisition of Mankato natural gas power plant.
The decision of the tool to accelerate the closure of ball-driven plants is "a very big issue," said Gleckner. "These are the largest greenhouse gases, carbon-emitting sources on the Xcels system."
Monday's city leaders in Becker and Oak Park Heights called the legislator to support these communities as Xcel phased out its massive coal-fired power plants. 19659003] "Our cities want to be partners in pure energy transition, but we can't go alone," said Greg Pruszinske, Becker's director, in a statement.
"We absolutely need the partnership between the state, Xcel and other stakeholders to support us through the transition," he said, noting that the Sherco facility contributes 75 percent of the city's local tax base and hundreds of jobs.  Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber noted that the King plant has been central to the area's identity for more than 50 years.
"We're already hard at work to set course for the next 50 years," she said, "but we need state partnerships to make the transition successful."
MPR news reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.