What Midwestern Electric Utilities Are Saying About Clean Energy
The energy industry has experienced a lot of change, particularly because the cost of wind and solar energy has plummeted faster than experts ever expected. Many electric utilities have taken advantage of this cheap, home-grown renewable energy and the benefits it brings to their customers, their bottom line, our economy, and our environment.
You don’t have to take it from us — read on to learn how – and why – electric utilities are investing in low-cost wind and solar energy throughout the Midwest!
MINNESOTA: XCEL ENERGY AND GRE LEADING THE WAY
Xcel Energy is investing heavily in affordable wind energy to power their customers’ needs. In fact, it plans to be 85% carbon free and 60% renewable by 2030. Xcel Energy plans to own more than 10,000 MW of wind energy by the end of 2021.
“These projects deliver on our vision to keep energy costs low while also achieving 85% carbon free energy by 2030 for the Upper Midwest,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. He also notes that wind is at a price that is “competitive with new natural gas generation.”
“Xcel Energy regards wind as a hedge against potentially volatile gas prices,” Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke said. “And even with today’s low natural gas prices, we are able to procure or build wind that is equal to or below what we could buy a 10- to 20-year strip of natural gas for.”
“What’s even more amazing is the prices. We’re looking at [prices] in the low teens to low 20s [in dollars/MWh] – not starting prices, but levelized across the 25-year life of the projects,” said Fowke. [Wind] beats gas, even at today’s prices. I like to say we backed up the truck because the fuel of tomorrow was on sale today.”
Xcel Energy is a perfect example of electric utilities that are using wind and solar power to deliver cheaper energy to their customers. These clean energy projects are built in the Upper Midwest, which means their customers benefit from the local benefits of hosting a clean energy project: new tax revenue, landowner lease payments, and new jobs. In Minnesota alone, Xcel plans to purchase 1,800 MW of wind energy and 1,400 MW of solar energy by 2030, according to its Integrated Resource Plan approved by the PUC in 2016.
GREAT RIVER ENERGY
Great River Energy (GRE) is the second-largest electricity provider in Minnesota and powers many of the rural electric co-ops in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In May, 2018, GRE announced its plan to source 50% of its power from renewables by 2030.
GRE already owns 468 MW of wind energy and 4 MW of solar energy, and it aims to add an additional 600 MW of renewable energy by 2030.
“Renewable energy, particularly wind, is Great River Energy’s lowest-cost option for new generation resources,” stated Great River Energy in a press release last month. “The goal does not change [our] mandate to provide affordable and reliable energy … [and] average wholesale rates will remain flat in 2019 with projected increases below the rate of inflation for the next decade.”
Not only is renewable energy a least-cost source of electricity, the company has also integrated it without affecting reliability.
“Wind is becoming the new baseload,” stated Great River Energy CEO David Saggau in 2017.
IOWA DOUBLES DOWN
MidAmerican Energy is the largest electric utility in Iowa and also serves customers in Illinois, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It plans to provide net 100% renewable energy for its customers energy needs by 2020, and it recently surpassed the 50% mark.
MidAmerican is another great example of a large utility investing in local clean energy – and bringing clean energy benefits to its customers. MidAmerican Energy has stated that its wind projects, Wind XI and Wind XII, will be accomplished without asking for an increase in their customers’ rates. Their wind projects are the largest economic development project in Iowa’s history.
“Wind energy is friendly to our environment, helps keep rates low for our customers, and benefits Iowa’s economy in many ways,” said Adam Wright, MidAmerican Energy President and CEO.
“… we have this low-cost energy resource that we can leverage and keep low and stable, so eveday Iowans will be impacted by their rates low and stable,” said Wright.
”There’s not another utility in the country — gas, water, cable, electric — that’s held rates steady for 12, 13 years,” said MidAmerican CEO Bill Fehrman. MidAmerican’s rates have increased only once since 1998 and are the ninth-lowest nationally. “A lot of that is because of the wind investment. The beauty of wind is there’s no fuel costs. We will be able to virtually serve 89 percent of our customers’ needs with an energy resource that requires no fuel.”
Even Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has applauded MidAmerican’s investments in local, low-cost windpower in the state, saying:
“Iowans are used to leading the way. We believe to our core that it is our responsibility to use the resources we are given in the best way possible. It’s the sustainable approach that has led Iowa to achieve the highest percentage of power generation coming from wind energy, more than any other state. And, it doesn’t hurt that we have a company like MidAmerican Energy that has taken the long view and is forward-looking in its goal to provide sustainable and affordable energy to its customers.”
MICHIGAN’S TRANSITION TO CLEAN ENERGY
Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider and has a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2040. It plans for more than 40 percent of the energy it produces to come from wind and solar energy by 2040, and it will reduce its carbon emissions by replacing coal-fired units with natural gas.
Consumers Energy currently powers 11% of its energy needs from renewable energy. It plans to add 5,000 MW of solar energy in the 2020s, along with more wind energy, battery storage, demand response, and energy efficiency.
Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe states that “our price to install and deliver wind power is down 75 percent from where we originally thought it would be. We think it’s important to include renewable sources as part of our total portfolio.”
“In the past people believed that we had to choose between affordable and clean energy; we don’t subscribe to that sucker’s choice,” said Poppe this past February. “Our commitment is to achieve our goal and keep our prices affordable.”
DTE Energy is the largest investor of wind and solar energy in Michigan. It plans to power 25% of their energy needs with renewables by 2030 and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. It will build 1,000 MW of new wind and solar projects in Michigan by 2022. By 2050, DTE expects to have 40% of its power from natural gas, 30% from wind, 20% from nuclear, and 10% from solar.
DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson stated that their investments in wind and solar “… [are] another significant step toward our carbon emission reduction goals, and those goals can be met in a way that continues to deliver reliable and affordable power for our customers.”
DTE Energy has invested over $2 billion in wind energy in the past 10 years, noting that “[wind energy has] created hundreds of jobs for residents and a local tax revenue for communities while delivering reliable, affordable and clean energy for our 2.2 million Michigan customers.”
The Michigan PSC has noted that DTE’s investments in renewable energy, storage, natural gas plants, and waste reduction have allowed them to meet their energy needs in a “reliable, affordable manner that protects the environment,” said Sally Talberg, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission. Reliable, affordable energy that is generated in-state is a win-win for all of DTE Energy’s customers.
It’s clear that many of the Midwest’s electric utilities are leading the nation’s transition toward clean energy to the benefit of ratepayers, our economy, and our environment. That’s good news for their customers that want clean, affordable energy. It’s good for rural communities throughout the Midwest that benefit from the capital investments that drive an economic ripple effect throughout the community. And it’s good for the U.S. economy, as the wind industry employs over 100,000 Americans and the solar industry employs nearly 250,000. Wind and solar energy are affordable, clean sources of reliable energy that is powering our future.
Renewable energy is just smart.