Xcel cuts carbon emissions 50% by 2021, eyes Colorado transmission, coal plants to reach 2030 goal

At-a-Glance:

Xcel Energy estimates that it has reduced carbon emissions 50% below 2005 levels in 2020, and is on track to meet its 2030 target of reducing carbon emissions 80% in the next decade, based on its upcoming integrated resource plans (IRPs). To learn more, read “Xcel cuts carbon emissions 50% by 2021, eyes Colorado transmission, coal plants to reach 2030 goal.”

 Key Takeaways:

  • Xcel completed six wind projects in 2020, representing nearly 1,500 MW of capacity. Another 800 MW of wind projects are under construction and expected to become operational in 2021.
  • Xcel plans to file solar plans with Minnesota regulators later this year, which would have the utility develop 460 MW of solar near its Sherco coal plant – retiring in 2030 – to take advantage of existing transmission near the plant.
  • Although specifics are not available regarding Xcel’s upcoming Colorado IRP, the plan will include transmission expansion to bring additional load from remote-located renewables into the Denver area.
  • Xcel will also propose a plan for its remaining Colorado coal plants, as well as adding more renewables, to put the utility on track to reduce its carbon footprint 80% by 2030.
  • Xcel plans to exit coal entirely in Minnesota by 2030.
  • Xcel executives will continue to be bullish on electric vehicle infrastructure build outs, investing $500 million in charging stations and distribution system infrastructure over the next five years, and closer to $1.5 – 2 billion over the next decade.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Xcel is paving the path to 100% for those in the energy sector, setting and meeting ambitious carbon reduction goals and building out its renewable energy capacity. Leveraging existing infrastructure while making key investments in solar and wind will help ease the transition to 100% carbon-free energy and serve as an example to others looking to do the same.

 

 

Photo by natsuki on Unsplash

This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg