Amid concerns that Donald Trump's election as president could spell trouble for the fight against climate change, Xcel Energy has pledged its plans to reduce carbon emissions in Minnesota will continue.
Potentially in his crosshairs following his shock election win is President Obama's Clean Power Plan, which was enacted last year and demands that over the next 15 years, the nation's utility providers reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired and other fossil fuel power stations by 32 percent, compared to 2005 levels.
Xcel Energy is planning sweeping changes to its energy generation in Minnesota, putting forward a proposal last year to close down two units of its coal-fired Sherco facility in Becker, before building a smaller natural gas plant and making a huge investment into wind and solar power across the state.
In a statement to GoMN on Thursday, Xcel Energy Vice President of Policy and Federal Affairs Frank Prager said a change in administration would not affect the plans it has already laid out.
"Regardless of the outcome of the election, Xcel Energy will continue pursuing energy and environmental strategies that appeal to policymakers across the political spectrum, because we are focused on renewable and other infrastructure projects that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions without increasing prices or sacrificing reliability," he said.
"We look forward to working with the new administration, policymakers at all levels of government and other stakeholders to develop and implement energy policies that benefit our customers, our business and our communities."
Renewable energy as a cost saver
Xcel's proposal, which will see it generate 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, is as much about economics as it is the environment.
The cost of renewable energy has been decreasing as the technology improves, with Bloomberg reporting that by the time Xcel has closed its Sherco plants in the mid-2020s, renewable could be on a par with or even cheaper than fossil fuels.
Xcel has said there will be an increase in bills in the short-term to cover its investment in renewable infrastructure, but in the long-term it should make bills cheaper than if it stays on the current track.
Environmental concerns about a Trump presidency
More attention is now being paid to Trump's previous Twitter assertion that man-made climate change is a Chinese hoax and his intimation during his campaign that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, which has seen 200 countries commit to carbon reductions to limit rising global temperatures.
In his energy policy, Trump speaks of an "energy revolution" that will "bring vast new wealth to our country," and no form of energy – whether renewable or fossil fuels – is off the table.
He's in favor of power that reduces both emissions and the price of energy. But he also wants to lift restrictions on the production of shale, oil and gas, as well as tap into America's reserves of coal – one of the dirtiest ways of generating electricity – albeit in its less-polluting (but more expensive) "clean coal" form.
In his first 100 days, he also plans to push ahead with the disputed Keystone XXL oil pipeline and cancel "billions in payments" to U.N. climate change programs to invest in America's "water and environmental infrastructure."
If temperatures do rise 3.6F, scientists say we could be locked into an "an irreversible future of extreme and dangerous warming," the New York Times reports, and as the world's second-biggest polluter (behind China), the U.S.'s involvement in the fight to reduce emissions is paramount.
"If Trump steps back from that [the Paris Agreement], it makes it much less likely that the world will ever meet that target [to limit temperature rises], and essentially ensures we will head into the danger zone," Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the newspaper.
NPR reports it wouldn't be hard for Trump to dump the Paris deal, given the pledges made are voluntary only.