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Reliable and Secure Energy

Reliable and Secure Energy

We provide 24/7 convenience for millions of customers who depend on us for the fundamentals — reliable, affordable and safe energy from an increasingly cleaner mix of resources.

We continually invest to strengthen and upgrade our infrastructure — the generating plants, power lines, pipelines and other systems that serve customers. This includes diversifying our energy supply to provide energy from a reliable mix of resources while managing cost, environmental impact and making sure we don’t depend too heavily on any one energy source. As we decide where to invest, we naturally consider projects that address all these considerations while providing the best overall value for all stakeholders — addressing the interests of regulators, policy makers, communities, customers and investors.

To run and maintain our system, we must also invest in our people to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement where we strive to work better and smarter for our customers. Among our operations employees, we have a mantra of getting better every day. 

2018 Results 

Regulators approved our Colorado Energy Plan that is supported by a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including environmental groups, consumer advocates, municipalities and customers. Under the plan, we will retire 660 megawatts of coal-fueled generation and add 1,100 megawatts of wind, 700 megawatts of solar, 275 megawatts of battery storage and 380 megawatts of existing natural gas resources. We will own 500 megawatts of the new wind and all of the natural gas resources.

We reached a $650 million agreement to purchase the Mankato Energy Center, a 760-megawatt natural gas power plant. The plant currently provides power to our customers under a purchased power agreement with Southern Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company. Purchasing the plant is a great value for customers because of the cost savings and operating flexibility it can provide as we transition to clean energy and reduce reliance on coal.

We delivered the Rush Creek wind project on time and within budget. The 600-megawatt project is our largest constructed to date. We also made progress advancing eight other wind projects across seven states to different stages of development. Xcel Energy is building and will own the projects, totaling 2,550 megawatts of capacity. In addition, we expect to own an additional 470 megawatts of wind capacity from four projects that others are building or repowering.

Under our Advanced Grid Intelligence and Security initiative, we deployed 100 network and more than 200 advanced distribution devices, and implemented a secure, two-way private network that will function as the foundation for advanced technology in Colorado and Minnesota. This work is just the beginning of the initiative that will upgrade the power grid to better serve customers and enhance our ability to efficiently restore power and improve reliability. The initiative will create a platform that provides enhanced visibility and control of the energy grid through the integration of modern information system technology and traditional distribution systems.

Xcel Energy was one of several companies recognized with a special 2018 Emergency Assistance Award by the Edison Electric Institute. Approximately 200 of our line workers and support personnel traveled to Puerto Rico to help restore power following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Investing for the Future

Over the next five years, we plan to invest $20.1 billion in projects that, in addition to ongoing maintenance and repair, will improve energy production, strengthen the energy grid, ensure security and offer customers more options. 

We are investing in projects that offer the most value for customers.

*Includes the purchase of the Mankato Energy Center and the Jeffers and Community Wind North repowering projects, which are awaiting regulatory approval in 2019.

System Resource Planning

We are required by some state regulatory commissions to regularly conduct a system resource planning process. The process varies by state, but generally begins with Xcel Energy filing a proposed long-term resource plan with the public utilities commission, which is then evaluated by regulators, as well as customer, environmental and community stakeholders. The plans assess the overall resources we need to serve the energy needs of our customers. The plans also discuss many other factors associated with our generation portfolio including associated transmission needs and our total load obligations, which are influenced by items like energy efficiency program goals. 

Once the plan is approved, it may result in the need to add resources to serve our customers. We then typically release one or more requests for proposals, which may be general or targeted toward specific resources, such as natural gas or renewable energy. As the regulatory commissions decide on the resources to be acquired, our stakeholders have the opportunity to provide input.

In Colorado, regulators approved the Colorado Energy Plan in August 2018, which completed phase two of our 2016 resource plan. We are now acquiring the new renewable, battery and natural gas resources that are part of the plan.

In the Upper Midwest, we are preparing to file a new resource plan in July 2019. We have announced our 2030 goal to reduce carbon emissions from the electricity that serves our customers 80%, while maintaining reliability and keeping customer bills affordable. We are currently working with stakeholders on the upcoming proposal to achieve this goal.

In our southwestern states, we are only required to file a resource plan in New Mexico. In early 2018, regulators in New Mexico and Texas approved our plans to add 1,230 megawatts of new wind generation for the region in 2020. We are currently implementing the wind projects, which are expected to meet customer energy needs while saving money long term through lower fuel and other costs. We anticipate filing updated resource plans in New Mexico as our system load requirements and generation portfolio continues to evolve.

Our Energy Supply

Xcel Energy provides electricity from a diverse mix of energy sources, including coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. We delivered more than 102 million megawatt hours of electricity to customers in 2018 produced at Xcel Energy generating plants and purchased from third-party suppliers.

Utility Operations

Generating Electricity

We currently own 79 generating plants that operate across our eight-state service territory with more than 18,000 megawatts of capacity. Traditionally, our generation portfolio has depended on coal, but we are transitioning our energy supply away from coal to rely more on renewable energy and energy sources that enable renewable integration, such as flexible natural gas generation. We need technologies that can be dispatched to balance the peaks when customer use exceeds renewable generation and valleys when renewable generation exceeds customer use.

By 2026, we will retire 23 coal units under approved plans, representing approximately 50% of the coal-fueled capacity we own. When we file our proposed Upper Midwest Energy Plan in July 2019 for consideration with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, it will include additional coal retirements. We will propose closing the Allen S. King Generating Plant in 2028 and Sherco Unit 3 in 2030 — our last remaining coal plants in the region.

As we retire resources and replace them with new ones, we are making the transition responsibly and thoughtfully for the communities and employees who are impacted. To date, we have managed plant closures through attrition and employee transfers to different company work locations. For our communities, we continue to partner on economic development opportunities, and we expect the transition will also create new jobs and economic development opportunities throughout our service area.

Xcel Energy’s declining reliance on coal enables significant reductions in carbon and other emissions.

*Based on Xcel Energy's 10% ownership interest in Craig Unit 1.

We continue to invest in wind energy under our Steel for Fuel strategy, capitalizing on historic-low wind prices and available tax credits to install new wind farms — where the cost to build the projects is offset by future fuel savings. Xcel Energy is recognized as a national leader in wind energy. Currently, most of the wind power on our systems is contracted under long-term agreements with third parties, but that is changing under our Steel for Fuel strategy.

Our two nuclear generating plants in Minnesota play an essential role in our energy future, providing 1,657 megawatts of reliable, carbon-free capacity. The plants delivered exceptional performance in 2018, generating more than 14.6 million megawatt hours of energy. It is a record for the plants, which produced power 96% of the time while reducing operating and maintenance costs by nearly 3%. Both plants also received the top rating under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Reactor Oversight Process that classifies the nation’s nuclear reactors into categories based on safety. Our Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant was honored with the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ Excellence Award for achieving an excellent rating on the plant’s annual evaluation.

Delivering Power

Xcel Energy operates nearly 21,000 miles of power lines and more than 1,200 substations and other equipment to safely and reliably deliver electricity to customers.

Transmission lines are a vital link to bring electricity over long distances from power sources to substations closer to homes and businesses. Xcel Energy is one of the fastest growing, investor-owned transmission systems in the country.

The following are notable projects in 2018:

In addition to these projects, we successfully started a critical rebuild project near Boulder in difficult terrain. In three days, we hauled and set 19 steel transmission structures by helicopter to rebuild a 110-year-old 115-kV line that runs between the El Dorado Substation and the NCAR Substation in Colorado. The line is located in Boulder Open Space in an area largely inaccessible to vehicles.

Fueling Homes and Businesses

Xcel Energy is the tenth largest provider of natural gas service in the country, based on number of customers. We fuel the homes and businesses of approximately 2 million customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and also operate some gas transmission in South Dakota and Texas. Natural gas is an extremely safe and efficient way to heat homes, from both a cost and environmental perspective, especially in our cold weather service areas. With more than 2,200 miles of transmission and 35,000 miles of distribution pipelines already in service, we plan to add approximately 750 miles of new pipeline over the next five years.

To maintain safe and reliable gas service for everyone, we continue to upgrade and renew our natural gas pipelines and other equipment. We finished replacing all cast-iron pipes on our system in 2014. Low natural gas prices have made it possible to invest in our system and accelerate upgrades with minimal impact to customer bills.

Xcel Energy purchases natural gas from third-party producers to generate electricity and distribute to customers for use in their homes and businesses. Natural gas production is governed by federal, state and local regulations, with additional regulations under consideration. We expect all our suppliers to conduct their operations responsibly and in compliance with all regulatory requirements.

We can play an important role in ensuring natural gas is produced responsibly and as sustainably as possible. To help promote sustainable production upstream of our operations, we joined the Natural Gas Supply Collaborative — a group of the nation’s large natural gas purchasers. Collaborative members have called for and are encouraging enhanced transparency from natural gas producers across 14 social and environmental metrics. 

Learn more about our public and pipeline safety efforts.

Vegetation Management

Xcel Energy’s Vegetation Management department manages millions of trees across more than 47,000 miles of distribution right-of-way and nearly 21,000 miles of transmission right-of-way throughout our service territory. For 24 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized our company as a Tree Line USA utility for our commitment to proper tree pruning, planting and care.

We use industry best practices such as Integrated Vegetation Management, which encompasses a progressive system of information gathering and helps us develop compliant solutions for controlling vegetation near electric and natural gas facilities. The practice helps us achieve our vegetation management goals in an environmentally sensitive, socially responsible and cost-effective manner.

In addition, pruning methods comply with standards set by the American National Standards Institute and the Tree Care Industry Association, which are endorsed by the International Society of Arboriculture.

For our distribution and transmission lines, work is generally performed on a four- to five-year cycle. In Colorado, we have established a Mountain Hazard Tree Program that helps us stay ahead of the tree mortality caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Our practices seek to balance our customers’ need for reliable energy while respecting the natural environment that surrounds our facilities. For example, we work with landowners to determine if trees and other vegetation can be deemed compatible with safe operation of our electric lines.

In our efforts to comply with governmental regulation and to better ensure electric system reliability, our transmission line vegetation management program emphasizes the removal of incompatible vegetation to promote long-term vegetation control. In many cases, this means removing trees in areas where trees had been pruned in the past.

We employ manual and mechanized clearing techniques, as well as responsible herbicide applications. All herbicides used are products registered by the EPA and the appropriate state regulatory agency. The herbicides are applied by licensed applicators. 

Safety: Grid Resilience and Security

As the use of technology and interconnected systems expands, the grid is increasingly subject to attack by those who might choose to do us harm, whether for criminal purposes or as part of an effort to undercut our national security.  Ensuring our energy grid is secure from cyber and physical threats is an ever-evolving responsibility that demands our constant vigilance and is a top priority for Xcel Energy.

We continue to implement an array of efforts to increase preparedness and decrease vulnerability. Our Enterprise Security Services organization oversees coordination of all security efforts, including employee training and awareness, compliance with federal regulations and corporate security governance.

Through our state-of-the-art Cyber Defense Center, we monitor and protect our networks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our cyber security program is risk-based and uses known standards and best practices which encompass security controls that provide adherence to government and regulatory requirements. It includes “Defense-in-Depth” methodology that provides multi-layered safeguards to reduce or eliminate single points of failure and weakness.

While it is impossible to protect our systems and grid against every malicious attack, we are taking reasonable and prudent steps to prevent, detect and mitigate the impacts of an intrusion. We are hardening systems to limit opportunities for attack and deploying enhanced monitoring and detection systems to help us promptly identify any successful intrusion.

In 2018, we introduced the Enterprise Command Center, which provides constant monitoring for natural and man-made events that could be disruptive to Xcel Energy’s ability to serve our customers, protect our assets and keep our employees safe.  

We engage with other members of our industry, other segments of the economy and the government to engage in threat information sharing and test our combined capabilities to respond to an attack. Individually and in collaboration with other energy providers, we are working to prepare our employees and systems for responding to a successful attack by developing inventories of spare equipment and processes for preserving reliability in the unlikely event our key operational systems were to be compromised. 

As part of our commitment to security, Ben Fowke, Xcel Energy chairman, president and CEO, is a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, which advises the President on ways the nation can protect its critical infrastructure. He also participates in the Electric Sector Coordinating Council, which serves as the principle liaison between the federal government and the electric power sector on these issues.

Additional Resources

Learn more about our resource plans.

Find more information on our efforts to reduce air emissionscarbon dioxide emissions  and methane and our use of advanced technology and renewable energy.

Reliable and Secure Energy (PDF)

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