In less than a decade, Xcel Energy plans to end coal-fired energy production at two of its Minnesota plants, closing the Allen S. King coal plant in Oak Park Heights in 2028. The announcement this week puts the King plant’s closure nine years ahead of the schedule previously outlined by Xcel. The closure would include the loss of about 90 jobs at the Oak Park Heights facility.
“The announcement of these plant closures will have massive impacts on the communities of Becker and Oak Park Heights,” said Becker City Administrator Greg Pruszinske, who serves as president of the Coalition of Utility Cities. “Without support from the state and other stakeholders, the massive loss of tax base and jobs will be borne by our local residents and businesses.”
The coalition, which Oak Park Heights is also a member, is currently seeking help from the state legislation through a community energy transition grant program.
“The Allen S. King Plant has been central to our city’s identity for more than 50 years,” said Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber in a statement. “With the King Plant now scheduled to close, we are already hard at work to set a course for the next 50 years, but we need the state’s partnership to make that transition successfully. I ask the Legislature to adopt the Community Energy Transition Grant Program this year so we can continue that hard work.”
The proposed plan would create a trust fund that would provide grants to host cities to allow for community and land use planning, economic development and efforts to support displaced plant workers.
Locally, Xcel gets about 30 percent of its power from coal plant like the Oak Park Heights facility. The remaining energy is produced by 29 percent from nuclear, 18 percent from wind; 12 percent from natural gas, and the rest from solar and other renewables.
Xcel Energy partnered with climate scientists with the University of Denver on a report released last month that would compare its plans for carbon emission reduction with temperature goals of the Paris climate agreement.
In 2018, the company reduced carbon emissions 38 percent from 2005 levels, as it aims to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 company-wide. This significant progress comes as the company adds new wind and solar programs while retiring coal plants and transitioning with cleaner natural gas.
Becoming fully powered by renewable energy will require advancements in technology that do no currently exist. According to its March report, beyond 2030 Xcel Energy will need new technologies that are not yet commercially available at the cost and scale required. To serve customers with 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, the report calls for more research, innovation and demonstration of advanced carbon-free technologies, such as power to gas, seasonal energy storage, advanced nuclear or small modular reactors, carbon capture and storage, deep rock geothermal or other technologies.
“Our cities want to be partners in the clean energy transition, but we cannot go it alone. We absolutely need the partnership of the state, Xcel, and other stakeholders to support us through the transition,” said Pruszinke.
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