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US utility Xcel Energy has filed a proposal with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission seeking approval to invest $3 billion to modernise its grid and operations.

The investment package is one of the largest in the State and will be directed towards accelerating renewable energy adoption, reducing consumer energy bills and helping the state to recover from COVID-19.

The filed proposal follows the Department of Commerce requesting energy companies to help with job growth and getting the economy on track.

The package, if approved, will create 5,000 jobs and ensure consumer bills remain 24% below the national average.

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Projects to be implemented include:

  • Building a 460MW solar pv project near the Sherco coal plant. The project will create 230 to 350 union jobs during construction and generate enough carbon-free energy to power more than 240,000 homes each year, while leveraging existing transmission infrastructure.
  • Expanding and rebuilding wind farms. 
  • Expanding conservation and efficiency programmes. The utility proposed to spend twice as much as the state requires on assistance programmes for low-income customers.
  • Investments will also be made in transmission, distribution, natural gas and electric vehicle infrastructure projects, including building electric vehicle charging stations for fleets and the public.

Ben Fowke, the CEO of Xcel Energy, said: “COVID-19 put the brakes on our economy, leading to widespread unemployment and we are eager to help Minnesota with our proposal that can help provide the economic jump start our state needs.

“We thank Governor Tim Walz, our regulators and commissioners for the leadership on this issue and remain committed to working with them along with our communities, policymakers, stakeholders and employees to move these projects forward quickly to help all Minnesotans.”

Xcel Energy is reducing electric customer bills in Minnesota by a total of $25 million this summer, as a result of lower-than-expected fuel costs. Low natural gas prices have also led to reduced use of coal-fired generation in recent months, keeping bills low for customers while also reducing emissions.