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Xcel Predicts 80% Renewables by 2030

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The carbon-free cohort just added its newest member, Xcel Energy’s Colorado division. Last week, the utility revealed their hope to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and 100% by mid century.

Although other utilities and entities have made similar announcements recently, Xcel’s plan is especially interesting. First of all, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe they are the first investor-owned utility in the U.S. to set such a lofty mid-century goal. What’s more, they’ve already made significant inroads with green power, recently generating 72% of all their power from renewables for an entire hour.

The group’s representatives are firm in their believe that current technology will allow them to hit the 2030 goal. The company adopted wind and solar some time ago, but only recently, they say, has it become affordable enough to pursue aggressively. They claim having witnessed a price drop of more than 70% in large solar and wind systems. They also stressed the importance of vastly improved weather forecasting, the error rate sitting around just 10% these days. As a result, Xcel is using 95-98% of all wind power they generate. On the solar side of things, they benefit from Colorado’s famously good weather–over 300 sunny days a year.

The most important thing holding Xcel, and other utilities, back from achieving 100% carbon free power is storage. They've started investing in high-tech battery systems around the state, however, to go fully green they’d need batteries capable of holding power for months. To get through the ever hotter summers, you need to hold onto wind energy from the spring etc. Battery chemistry, however, will surely improve in the coming years and new storage types may appear as well.

It seems inevitable that more and more utilities will make serious pushes to cut out fossil fuels in the coming years. It’ll be interesting to see how they alter the grid to do so. Big batteries have gotten a lot of attention recently, I’m interested to see what else gets thrown into the mix.

Henry Craver's picture

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