Editorial: Xcel’s move to green a step in the right direction

Published 9:37 am Saturday, May 25, 2019

Earlier this week it was announced by Xcel Energy, that the company was moving up its timetable to reach 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.

A major step introduced at the same was that Xcel would be closing the state’s remaining coal power plants in the Upper Midwest by 2030.

Xcel’s commitment to renewable energy reflects a growing public commitment to move away from things like coal in favor of renewable resources such as solar and wind energy in an effort to curb climate change.

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Stepping back, while it could be considered a small step in the overall picture of our plant, it’s a large step forward by a company working toward a better tomorrow.

Xcel set a date of 2028 for closing the Allen S. King plant in Oak Park Heights and 2030 for the Sherco 3 plant in Becker.

However, while this further commitment by Xcel is more than welcome in a time when governmental policy appears to be at best sticking the subject of climate change in a closet somewhere and walking away or at worst claiming climate change is a hoax, it does come with concerns and environmental groups are right to continue voicing them.

Those concerns seem prominent at the news that Xcel also announced it was going to extend the operation of the nuclear power plant in Monticello to 2040, 10 years past the expiration of the current license and that they have reached an agreement to purchase Southern Power’s Mankato Energy Center natural gas plant.

Both options are cleaner than coal, but they come with drawbacks all the same.

“We should instead be investing in clean, renewable energy,” said Jessica Tritsch in a Minnesota Public Radio story from May 20. Tritsch is senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

She’s right. Nuclear power comes at the added expense of dealing with the nuclear waste along with the hazards should something go wrong within the plant. And while the burning of natural gas releases less carbon dioxide, extracting the gas results in a rise of another greenhouse gas: methane.

Those points were also bought up in MPR’s story and they are concerns that should be kept at the front of any thoughts moving forward to what we all should be hoping is a greener future.

Xcel’s commitment is optimistic and bold, especially in their work with environmental groups. This move toward a greener energy solution was boosted by Xcel’s commitment to add at the very least 3,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2030 and 1,850 megawatts of wind energy by 2022.

However, there is more tacked on to the end of this that needs to be considered: jobs.

These plants can’t just be closed without a solid plan in place to ensure those working at these plants still have work. We hope that those companies like Xcel and others considering moves like this will also work to ensure that plans are in place for their employees, whether that is work elsewhere in the company or training for jobs elsewhere in the go-green field that will no doubt need workers as it continues to evolve.

Either way, the big picture is this. Major companies like Xcel are taking steps to help ensure we have a healthy planet for not only us but for our children as well. That’s a future we all should be buying into and a future worth working together for.