Keeping Xcel Energy’s system reliable and secure is fundamentally important to our customers and communities. We never lose sight of this fact and are taking steps to ensure our reliability ranks among the best in the country now and well into the future. In 2014, Xcel Energy customers had electricity service 99.9 percent of the time on average. When a major storm hits, we are prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to restore power, as has been demonstrated time and again in our own jurisdictions, as well as in other parts of the country where we have responded through mutual-aid agreements. Having a diverse mix of energy resources on our systems helps us to ensure reliability at a reasonable cost to customers while also managing the risks associated with relying too heavily on any one resource. As we invest in strengthening and upgrading our infrastructure, Xcel Energy always considers how to manage risk and choose the projects that provide the best value for communities.
Physical and Cybersecurity
Xcel Energy is committed to the security of customers, our assets and the nation’s critical infrastructure. We understand the risks and continue to focus on the improvement of our security program, leveraging our partnerships with public and private agencies, to ensure the protection of the critical assets that deliver safe, reliable energy to our communities and secure our customers’ information. Our security programs are built on a Defense-in-Depth strategy that provides multi-layered safeguards against security risks. Because there is no solution that can guarantee complete security of our systems and critical infrastructure, we use a risk management approach inclusive of planning and preparing for events to ensure full, fast mitigation and recovery.
We view law enforcement, defense agencies and regulatory agencies as critical partners in our effort to protect our systems. We have longstanding relationships with personnel from these groups that enhance our own security. Further, Xcel Energy’s chairman, president and CEO Ben Fowke is a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) subcommittee on cybersecurity, which advises President Obama through the secretary of Homeland Security on the security of critical infrastructure sectors and their information systems. In addition, we are subject to a number of statutory and regulatory requirements, including data privacy laws focused on protecting our systems and customer information and data.
The responsibility of protecting our critical assets continues to evolve as new threats emerge, and we continually elevate our capabilities to prepare, prevent and respond to potential threats. Our investments in infrastructure, cyber-assets and personnel reinforce our commitment to protecting customers, our assets and the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Regulation of Infrastructure and Information Security
As we go forward, we believe that infrastructure security and information security laws and regulations should focus on:
- Aligning relevant requirements across state and federal agencies
- Establishing a clear reporting and federal agency responsibility structure in case of a cybersecurity event
- Sharing cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities information between the federal government and the private sector
- Giving the utility industry the tools and flexibility it needs to develop safeguards that are appropriate for each utility’s risk profile
- Strengthening cyber defenses while minimizing paperwork and ineffective compliance measures
- Limits on liability associated with sharing cyber data
Emergency Preparedness and Response
At Xcel Energy, we consider our preparations for safe and timely power restoration following severe weather events and other natural disasters as key components of electric and gas reliability. Industry leading emergency preparedness and response includes many elements, such as training, weather system monitoring, resource staging prior to emergencies, rapid mobilizations for restoration and ongoing communications with all stakeholders.
We continuously assess potential risks—natural, technical and terrorist. We carefully consider the consequences of each possible emergency and develop our response plans. To test our plans, we conduct several complex and multi-business unit reliability drills each year.
These drills challenge the organization with scenarios such as earthquakes, severe weather, major power or gas outages, or cyberattacks. Our primary drill objective is to test our emergency procedures and processes to identify performance gaps or previously unconsidered issues and make the plans more effective and efficient. Many of our reliability drills involve Xcel Energy’s executive team as well as participants from federal, state and local regulatory and emergency-management agencies.
By investing in new infrastructure and modernizing existing infrastructure, we can be sure to maintain high reliability over time. In the next five years, Xcel Energy will invest $14.5 billion in projects that offer the most value for customers, while strengthening the safety and security of our system. Current low interest rates allow us to make necessary and innovative improvements at an affordable cost to customers.
Transmission and Natural Gas Investment for the Future
Xcel Energy has a strong track record of managing and completing complex construction projects under challenging and often changing conditions. Our expertise is particularly strong when it comes to building and upgrading transmission lines and natural gas pipeline, which is why we’re focusing a significant portion of our infrastructure investment plans on growth opportunities in these two areas.
For the communities we serve, transmission is an area of our business that continues to expand as we plan to maintain electric reliability, meet future load growth and seek ways to connect more renewable energy resources.
In 2014, we put more than 760 miles of new transmission lines into service and modernized 190 miles of existing lines, successfully executing more than $1 billion in capital investment in transmission. We plan to invest an additional $4.5 billion in transmission between 2015 and 2019 and have established three independent transmission companies to give us the flexibility to compete in the highly competitive transmission market. Xcel Energy is one of the largest builders of 345-kilovolt transmission in the United States, and we’re able to do so at an average cost per mile that’s lower than the national average.
Xcel Energy currently operates more than 2,400 miles of natural gas transmission and more than 34,000 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines to serve our customers in Colorado and the Upper Midwest. We continue to take advantage of the low cost of natural gas to meet customer demand for electricity at a competitive price, and we have managed to accelerate upgrades to our natural gas distribution system with minimum impact to customer bills.
We’re still in the early days of pursuing growth in natural gas and are looking at opportunities for building new infrastructure, as well as investing in natural gas transmission pipeline or natural gas reserves. Because natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel, we see great opportunities for new natural gas infrastructure as our industry works to address more stringent environmental rules, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2014, we expanded natural gas service to three communities in Minnesota that were previously served only by propane. For customers, natural gas is more dependable, reliable and lower cost fuel than propane. Additionally, we replaced the last remaining cast iron pipe on our system, which will help ensure safety and reliability, and we completed 35 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline on time and on budget to bring natural gas to Cherokee Generating Plant in Colorado as part of our Clean Air-Clean Jobs project.
Read about our transmission projects and organizations.
Learn more about natural gas production and distribution.
Upper Midwest Resource Plan
In January 2015, Xcel Energy filed its Upper Midwest 2016-2030 Resource Plan with Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, outlining a long-term road map to a more sustainable and affordable energy future.Details
Our commitment to provide customers with clean, affordable and reliable energy requires a diverse mix of electricity resources, which today includes coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewable resources. By having diversity in our energy supply, we capture the benefits associated with each resource, while also minimizing the operational, financial and environmental risks that come with relying too heavily on any one resource.
Regulatory commissions in some of the major states we serve require us to submit resource plans at regularly established intervals. The plans generally assess the resources necessary to serve customers’ future energy requirements. They also discuss our future energy efficiency program goals and summarize our transmission planning process and other resources we may need to acquire based on our studies of future load growth. The regulatory review for these plans includes input from customers and other stakeholders.
The filing of a resource plan marks the beginning of a process that focuses on a proposed long-term plan that is evaluated by regulators as well as environmental, business and community stakeholders. Xcel Energy and stakeholders have the opportunity to advocate for specific assumptions that will form the basis for subsequent plans.
If the resulting approved plan proposes to add resources to meet customer needs, Xcel Energy will release one or more requests for proposals (RFPs), which are either general or target specific energy production technologies. Stakeholders are given the opportunity to provide testimony on the best course of action concerning new resource additions with our public utilities commissions as the commissions rule on resources to be acquired.
|Region||Frequency of Filings||Last Filing||Next Filing|
|Colorado||At least every four years||October 31, 2011||October 31, 2015|
|New Mexico1||Every three years||July 16, 2012||July 2015|
|Upper Midwest||Every two to three years||January 2, 2015||To be determined by early 2016|
|1 Texas has no resource plan filing requirement|
Providing Community Value
Upper Midwest Resource Plan
In January 2015, Xcel Energy filed its Upper Midwest 2016-2030 Resource Plan with Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, outlining a long-term road map to a more sustainable and affordable energy future. By 2030, more than 60 percent of our Upper Midwest system’s energy supply will be carbon free, while maintaining fuel diversity to hedge price and reliability risk and keeping energy costs affordable. The plan is driven by achieving aggressive reductions in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels—at least a 30 percent reduction by 2020 and at least a 40 percent reduction by 2030.
In the plan, Xcel Energy proposes the following:
- Add approximately 1,800 megawatts of wind resources
- Add approximately 1,700 megawatts of large-scale solar resources and approximately 700 MW of customer-owned solar
- Continue to operate all of our coal plants through 2030 while gradually decreasing energy output and CO2 emissions
- Add approximately 2,000 megawatts of natural gas-fueled plants
- Retain nuclear power, which emits no CO2 emissions
- Maintain industry-leading energy efficiency programs
Related to the Upper Midwest Resource Plan is the e21 Initiative. The resource plan was filed weeks after the e21 Initiative released its Phase 1 Report in Minnesota and incorporates elements of the initiative.