Sherco Power Plant: The Wrong Project, For The Wrong Reasons, At A Big Cost

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This commentary was originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 13, 2017. Written in conjunction with ILSR Research Associate, Karlee Weinmann.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers, including Gov. Mark Dayton, last week endorsed Xcel Energy’s plan to build a new natural gas plant in Becker, Minn. What they’ve left out is that this project is a multibillion-dollar boondoggle.

Fortunately, there’s still time to stop it.

Led by Xcel and labor groups, proponents say the plan will safeguard jobs lost when Xcel shutters coal-fired generators at the site in the mid-2020s. But the new facility is projected to employ just 150 workers, roughly half the number currently employed by the coal operations. It’s hardly worth the $1 billion upfront price tag and billions more in fuel costs borne by ratepayers — especially when there are cheaper ways to protect the workers and generate the power.

Last fall, when asked for their approval of Xcel’s proposed plant, regulators expressed deep skepticism that the proposed 786-megawatt gas facility is the most cost-effective option. Now, Xcel is trying to get around regulatory review and manipulate the economic fears of one Minnesota town — and the admirable desire of legislators to help — to obscure the costly reality of its proposal.

Read the full commentary on the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


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John Farrell

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

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