Minnesota-based Xcel Energy announced a plan Wednesday to put $3 billion into the state to help promote economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Commerce had previously asked energy companies to play a role in the state’s recovery and job creation. Proposed projects would create around 5,000 jobs, according to Xcel.
“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,” said Ben Fowke, chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy in a statement.
The projects include adding solar panels to its soon-to-be-decommissioned Sherco coal plant in Becker, Minnesota, creating between 230 and 350 jobs. The solar panels would power around 240,000 homes per year. Xcel will also update aging wind farms and build new ones in Greater Minnesota.
This project would create hundreds of jobs and "create a lasting impact in the area," according to Xcel.
The energy company would also expand its rebate program to help more customers pay for energy conservation equipment. The move would lower costs for customers and create trade jobs.
These programs require approval by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Low fuel costs also mean Xcel will lower bills in Minnesota by around $25 million this summer. The company is using less coal-fired generation as natural gas costs are low. Xcel announced last year that it plans to close its Sherco coal plants by 2030.
Great River Energy also recently announced plans to close its coal-fired plant in North Dakota.
"As we join the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in its effort to aid in Minnesota’s economic recovery, we’ve proposed projects that will bring significant system benefits, accelerate the economy and advance our plans to reduce carbon emissions,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota.
“Xcel Energy is proud to be part of the Minnesota community, and we are in a strong position to create a pipeline of jobs by moving forward with projects across the state that will accelerate economic growth while advancing our goals as we continue to lead the clean energy transition.”