Xcel Energy’s environmental strategy is driven by smart investment choices, ones that our customers want and value. Our strategy has worked for customers and the communities we serve because it balances cost and environmental improvement with operating a reliable utility system. Today our system is stronger because we are working toward a diverse portfolio of cleaner, modern technologies to meet our customers’ needs now and in the future.
Our clean energy and emissions reduction strategy is built on three components that include the increased use of renewable resources, energy saving programs for customers and power plant fleet modernization initiatives, such as the Minnesota Metro Emissions Reduction Program and Colorado’s Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. Through such programs, we are lowering emissions, including carbon dioxide. Since 2005, Xcel Energy has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 19 percent and we are projected to achieve a 31 percent reduction by 2020—exceeding our original goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020.
Xcel Energy’s efforts to reduce emissions have benefitted from a proactive approach. We acted early in retiring, converting and refurbishing our power plants, which has put us in a good position for the future. Staying ahead is especially important in this realm because as the rest of the industry works to comply with new and expanding environmental regulations, the price of labor and materials will increase.
Today, Xcel Energy is among the nation’s leaders in delivering affordable, clean energy from renewable sources. These sources are an essential and growing part of the value we provide customers. Wind power is easily the best-priced renewable option we have for meeting our customers’ energy needs, and we plan to use it more. In 2013, we announced plans to increase our wind portfolio by 40 percent. We will participate in nine projects that will add a total of 1,900 megawatts of new wind throughout our service territory, enough to serve about 900,000 homes. All projects are scheduled to be in service by the beginning of 2016.
For customers, wind energy provides price stability and reduces emissions. We continue to improve the integration of and use of wind on our systems. For example, through better wind forecasting, we have saved our customers more than $37 million in fuel costs alone since 2009.
In 2013, the American Wind Energy Association recognized Xcel Energy as the Utility of the Year for the second time in five years for our commitment to new wind energy acquisitions and progressive wind integration efforts. We have held the ranking of No. 1 provider of wind energy in the nation for 10 consecutive years now.
We are approaching solar energy with the same determination as wind energy. We have more than 300 megawatts of solar energy on our system, enough to power about 60,000 homes, and we’ll add nearly 400 megawatts of large-scale solar by 2020.
Xcel Energy supports incorporating solar resources in the right way—in a fair, efficient and sustainable manner. We are helping to develop large-scale solar energy systems that are the most cost-effective, efficient form of solar today and can benefit all customers on our systems. For those customers interested in owning solar themselves, we want to provide this option as well, but the rules must work for all customers. We have opened conversations with our regulators, the solar industry, customers and other interested stakeholders on how to make solar energy sustainable and practical for everyone.
In addition to renewable energy, Xcel Energy is a leader in energy conservation, offering a comprehensive portfolio of efficiency and demand-side management programs for all customers, both large and small. In 2013, Xcel Energy customers saved 985 gigawatt-hours of electricity, helping to save about 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
There are significant future environmental regulations under consideration to encourage the use of clean energy technologies and regulate emissions of greenhouse gases to address climate change. If greenhouse gases are to be regulated, we support a reasonable, national climate policy that promotes clean energy and reduces these emissions in a flexible, cost-effective manner. We believe that any effective climate program should give states the ability to rely on clean energy programs and reward early action that has already resulted in emission reductions across the nation.
While we believe that Congress should design our nation’s climate policy, we recognize that regulation of carbon dioxide will now likely happen through the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. We are working with regulators, our states and other stakeholders to assure that these new rules make sense for our customers and the environment.