Xcel Energy today proposed a new program that would allow its Minnesota customers to choose energy generated exclusively from wind and solar resources. The company submitted its proposal for Renewable*Connect in a filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
If approved by the Commission, Xcel Energy customers who subscribe to Renewable*Connect will be able to secure up to 100 percent of their electricity from a blend of wind and solar resources dedicated to the program.
In addition to allowing customers the option of choosing all renewable energy, this new program would provide price predictability as the fuel charge is tied to the wind and solar energy used in this project.
“Our customers want more options when it comes to energy use, and this new program will help them meet their sustainability goals,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “Renewable*Connect will give customers a new choice for wind and solar energy, flexible terms and no up-front costs. This proposal builds on the success of Windsource, a renewable energy program that generated 173,000 megawatt hours of sales in 2014, as well as our developing solar program, that is expected to be one of the largest in the country.”
If approved by the Commission, Xcel Energy customers will be able to sign up for Renewable*Connect on month-to-month, five-year or ten-year contracts. In addition to reviewing the overall program, Xcel Energy is asking the Public Utilities Commission to approve a portion of wind and solar projects coming online in 2016 for the program, with the resources dedicated to the equivalent amount of electric demand of program participants. Initially, the program will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with plans to expand as the utility adds new wind and solar projects.
Meeting customer sustainability goals
The program provides benefits to business customers with sustainability programs as it will deliver a verifiable method to track renewable energy use. Xcel Energy will seek Green-e certification from the Center for Resource Solutions, and retire Renewable Energy Credits associated with the wind and solar projects on behalf of participating customers. The Renewable Energy Credits will be registered with the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System.
The program will also meet the unique needs of new or expanding businesses in the region, according to Michael Langley, president, Greater MSP.
“Sustainable energy options are an advantage for businesses expanding in our region. Our region is a leader in many aspects of sustainable energy and this program will meet business’ needs,” said Michael Langley, CEO, Greater MSP. “It will be another tool for regional economic development.”
Industry organizations are similarly encouraged.
"This sort of innovation is exactly what the large buyers were hoping to spur when they drafted the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles." said Letha Tawney, Director of Utility Innovation and Polsky Chair for Renewable Energy at the World Resources Institute. "Xcel Energy has thought in a creative way about features like simplicity, predictable pricing, program flexibility, and shielding other rate payers. We're looking forward to sharing the details with our corporate partners and hearing what the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and other stakeholders think of the program."
Long-term price predictability
Current customer bills include a fuel surcharge that can change on a monthly basis depending on the price of fuel used in generating electricity. The Renewable*Connect program will reflect only the cost of the utility-scale wind and solar resources dedicated to the project, providing more price stability, particularly for long-term contracts.
The filing also includes incentives for customers who have signed up for a separate electric vehicle meter who will receive exemptions from some program charges. Businesses that locate or expand under the existing Business Incentive and Sustainability (BIS) Rider are also exemptions from some program charges.
Minnesota PUC review of the program is expected to last approximately one year. Customers can start signing up for the program when approved, which is expected to occur in early 2017.