Minnesota legislation proposes new way to consider nuclear plant investments

March 16th, 2018
Author: Lisa Kuehl, Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy has an industry leading vision of reaching 85 percent carbon-free generation by 2030 in the Upper Midwest region of the U.S. The Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants can be resources to achieving that vision and to meeting the state of Minnesota’s clean energy goals. This requires investing in the plants while keeping customers’ bills low. 

Several members of the Minnesota House of Representatives – many who represent the Monticello and Prairie Island plants’ districts and who understand well the value the plants bring to the local communities – recently introduced legislation that may help create some certainty around the future of the Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants. The legislation (currently known as House File 3708) would create a new avenue that would allow the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Xcel Energy to focus specifically on nuclear issues to plan for the future, as opposed to considering them only within rate cases and resource plans as they currently do.

With this approach, Xcel Energy would propose specific capital projects to the Minnesota PUC, which would include a maximum budget in advance of the work with a ceiling cap (only spending a certain amount). This creates protection for Xcel Energy customers’ risk to cover unexpected costs. It would also reduce some risk with the big, long-term investments and establish the prudence of capital projects up-front. As always though, the PUC would maintain full decision-making authority on whether or not to approve projects.

Xcel Energy has placed a clear priority on supporting its nuclear plants and values their role as a reliable energy source. The introduction of the bill is an encouraging step toward securing the future of the Xcel Energy nuclear fleet. Nuclear fleet employees understand they play a major role in determining their future by maintaining the current upward performance trajectory. The fleet set a generation record in 2017 and have beat budget and cost per megawatt goals in consecutive years.

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