Xcel Energy, the region’s largest electric utility, is joining forces with the Metropolitan Council, one of the top 10 electrical consumers in the state, to dramatically increase the Council’s use of renewable energy in day-to-day operations.
Xcel Energy and the Council announced the creation of a green partnership focused on working together to produce and purchase clean, renewable energy and also allow the Council to operate its wastewater and transit systems exclusively on energy from renewable sources by 2040.
The memorandum of understanding between the two organizations creates a framework to move forward, which will allow the Council to purchase 100 percent renewable energy from Xcel Energy by 2040. Purchasing renewable energy from Xcel Energy is projected to achieve cost savings for the Council, helping conserve public funds, and the agreement solidifies a partnership to get more electric buses on Minnesota roads.
“Minnesota has made tremendous progress to support clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meeting our 25 percent renewable energy goal seven years ahead of schedule,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “This new partnership between the Metropolitan Council and Xcel Energy continues Minnesota’s nation-leading efforts to conserve energy, save taxpayer dollars, and support a strong clean energy economy.”
“At Xcel Energy, we pride ourselves on reducing carbon emissions and providing customers with clean, reliable and affordable energy,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “We’re also committed to working with customers, large and small, to help them use more renewables and become more energy efficient. This partnership is another example of this commitment and we look forward to working with the Council on a number of initiatives, including ways to use clean energy to run their wastewater systems and put more Metro Transit electric buses on the roads.”
“This technology is coming of age,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “We are at the point where renewable energy either costs the same as traditionally generated power, or even offers a savings over the long-term. As one of the region’s largest consumers of electric power, we can help address climate change in our region by moving our entire baseload to renewable sources by 2040. Our partnership makes sense financially for the Council, protects the environment, expands Xcel Energy’s portfolio of renewable energy sources, and ultimately contributes to the growth of our economy.”
The Metropolitan Council operates the region’s wastewater treatment and transit system. In total, the Council purchases about 245,000 MWh of electricity every year. That’s enough to power 25,000 homes in Minnesota. In recent years, the Council pursued significant investments in advancing solar and self-generation technology to recapture and utilize the heat and other biproducts of its treatment processes.
Following the MOU signing, Xcel Energy is expected to pursue a second round of its successful Renewable Connect program for government by working with the Commerce Department and the Public Utilities Commission. The Council expects to subscribe to the program to power its metro area wastewater treatment plant (Metro Plant), assuming the terms are favorable to the Council. The Metro Plant, the largest of the eight treatment facilities the Council operates, uses enough electricity every year to power 10,000 homes.
This load alone makes up about 45 percent of the Metropolitan Council’s total electrical load. The Council expects to contract for additional renewable energy every few years after that until it subscribes 100 percent of its 245,000 MWh annual baseload.
As the operator of Metro Transit and the state’s largest diesel user, the Metropolitan Council is also looking for ways to use more electric vehicles as that technology becomes more cost-competitive. The agreement signed today establishes a formal partnership between Xcel Energy and the Council for the purposes of creating electric bus pilot programs, pursuing funding, and sharing data with the goal of further advancing electric bus technology. The Metropolitan Council recently purchased its first pilot fleet of electric buses, which will serve the C Line, the bus rapid transit line currently under construction in Minneapolis.
Both Tchourumoff and Clark say the commitment to clean energy must be economically sustainable as well. The agreement notes that the partnership should be advantageous to the Council and Xcel Energy, and that it should not in any way disadvantage other Xcel Energy ratepayers.