Doing Their Part: Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy–Colorado president Alice Jackson says her organization is multitasking, problem-solving, and adapting so it can meet its climate-change goals. Here’s what she wants you to know.

“Our journey toward more renewable energy started in 2004, when Colorado passed the first voter-led Renewable Energy Standard in the nation, requiring electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. We needed to hit 30 percent renewables on our grid by 2020. We hit that in 2019.”

“On our way to being 80 percent renewable by 2030, we have plans to be at 55 percent or higher by 2025. We are building new solar arrays. We are retiring coal plants early. But how do we get to zero carbon by 2050? We’re not sure yet.”

Photo courtesy of Xcel Energy

“Everyone wants more renewables, but at Xcel we have to balance affordability and reliability. Customers would not like it if their bills doubled or the lights suddenly went out. Right now, it’s about a mix of carbon-free resources on the system and then backfilling with fossil fuels when we need to.”

“The difficulty with renewables is that they are variable. The wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. This is where battery storage comes into the conversation. The newer lithium-ion batteries are much improved, and battery storage has a place, but there are physical and technological limitations. Right now, we can store energy for many hours. Post-2030, we need longer-duration batteries. We have to be able to store energy we get from the wind, which whips up in the spring, to use during peak summer energy use. We need universities and private industry to work on better batteries.”

“The economics of renewable energy are always changing. When we first added wind in 1998, it cost about 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour. In 2018, that was down to 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Solar was 21 cents in 2007, but it’s now down to 2.5 cents. Coal, for comparison, has been [on average] 2.5 cents for the past decade. So wind and solar are now economic. Battery power is not there yet, but we’re investing in it.”

“Beginning in June, we will begin the process of replacing all customers’ meters with new meters that can help us tell our customers how they’re using energy in real time. Right now, we can only do that once a month. With the new meters, we will have a great opportunity to interact with our users to, say, send a signal when we’re experiencing peak use with high-carbon intensity.”

Doing Your Part: Choose Your Energy

Yes, most of us are Xcel customers. But you still have the ability to choose what type of energy you use.

Ask Xcel About…Windsource
This program allows customers to purchase renewable energy in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks, which cost $1.50 each. For the average home that uses 900 kilowatt hours per month, the increase in your energy bill would be $13.50 per month to be fully Windsource powered. Right now, wind accounts for 25 percent of Xcel’s renewable energy portfolio, but the more demand there is, the more supply Xcel will be able to provide.

Ask Xcel About…Solar Rewards Community
Without having to install solar panels on your roof, you can still buy solar energy for your home through a third-party community garden. To harness the sun’s rays for your house, you’ll choose from Xcel’s list of approved operators (who must have a solar array in the same county in which you live); they will help you with paperwork and manage your participation. Once you’ve subscribed to a solar garden, you will receive a credit on your monthly electric bill from Xcel.