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Minnesota process protect ratepayers from being ripped off by the nuclear industry

Now That Xcel Won’t Get Its Nuclear Bill, What’s Next? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  JESSICA COLLINGSWORTH, POLICY ANALYST, CLEAN ENERGY | JUNE 1, 2018  Earlier this month the Xcel Nuclear Plant Costs Bill (SF3504/HF3708) passed the Senate but failed to pass through the Minnesota House. The bill created a system of approving nuclear plant repair costs for Xcel Energy that would have circumvented the normal process of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) and left ratepayers to shoulder potentially excessive costs of keeping Xcel’s nuclear plants running.

……So now that the Xcel nuclear bill didn’t pass, what’s next, and what does this all mean for Minnesota’s clean energy future?
Trying to keep Xcel’s nuclear fleet in the blackXcel’s nuclear fleet is struggling to stay profitable in the face of cheaper alternatives (like renewable energy and natural gas) and looming upkeep costs. Xcel estimates it will need at least $1.4 billion dollars in repairs over the next 17 years for its Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants. To provide certainty that Xcel would be able to recover those costs from ratepayers, they introduced legislation that would have allowed the company to get upfront approval from the PUC for its future nuclear expenses instead of approval after those investments have been made (how it works currently). The legislation would have provided certainty for Xcel that they would be able to recover these maintenance costs from ratepayers.

This is a bad deal for ratepayers because the legislation dilutes the PUC’s authority, and attempts to bypass the PUC’s current process for reviewing costs to determine if they’re prudent. That’s why UCS opposed the bill: it was an attempt to avoid the existing regulatory review process and shift financial risk from Xcel’s shareholders to ratepayers. This is not the first legislative attempt to dilute the power of the MN PUC.

Maintaining the current process for approving costs is important

Xcel is due to file their next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), also known as their 15-year business plan, in February 2019. The IRP process allows for a comparison of electricity options to make sure consumers are getting the most bang for their ratepayer bucks. The IRP process is where Xcel will detail how they plan to generate and supply power to their customers over the next 15 years, including any expected expenses to keep its nuclear plants up and running.

A successful IRP includes evaluation of existing resources, a robust economic analysis of different supply-side and demand-side options under a range of scenarios and assumptions, including future environmental costs and fuel prices, opportunities for stakeholder engagement, adequate reporting requirements, and a robust set of criteria of which to base approval or denial of utility plans to spend ratepayer dollars.

It’s important to keep the current process because it protects ratepayers from excessive charges. By separating out the nuclear plant upkeep costs, we’re not comparing them to other options that would maintain a reliable and affordable energy supply for less cost to ratepayers. The legislation would have pre-approved these costs, meaning any cost overruns due to mismanagement by Xcel would have been automatically passed on to ratepayers. To protect Minnesota consumers, it’s important to keep the robust IRP process and maintain the PUC’s authority to scrutinize Xcel’s expenditures……..


June 1, 2018 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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