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Great River Energy has spent more than a decade positioning its power generation portfolio, lowering costs and reducing dependence on coal as a fuel source, while improving the overall flexibility of its portfolio. These measures have resulted in a 38 percent reduction in Great River Energy’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 2005.
In addition, Great River Energy met Minnesota’s renewable energy standard of 25 percent renewable energy in 2017 – eight years ahead of the state’s requirement. In 2018, Great River Energy voluntarily set a goal to serve its all-requirements member-owner cooperatives with energy that is 50 percent renewable by 2030. We are well on our way toward meeting this new goal.
Great River Energy tracks and reports to the Public Utilities Commission our progress toward the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goal of 80 percent between 2005 and 2050. The current greenhouse gas reduction goal is a statewide goal, and the electric utility sector is the only sector that is on track to achieve the reduction goals. The transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Great River Energy strongly opposes HF700 and its companion bill SF850, which mandate the state’s electric utilities to receive 55 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, 80 percent by 2035 and to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050.
The measure is unnecessary because the Great River Energy and other utilities are taking voluntary action to increase renewables and reduce the CO2 emissions from their generation portfolios. In addition to Great River Energy’s goal of 50 percent renewables by 2030, its member-owner cooperatives are building their own renewable projects under the 5 percent option in their all-requirements contracts with Great River Energy. In addition, Great River Energy’s power plants played a critical role ensuring electric system reliability during the January polar vortex.
There has been no analysis to determine the impact the proposed measure would have on electricity cost or reliability. Time should be taken to study the cost/benefit of the bill, including the incremental change between 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction in the current law and 100 percent in the bill.
Mandates like those contemplated within HF700 risk making the transition to clean energy more expensive because they change the market power dynamic of renewable energy projects. Renewable developers can charge the utility more when they know the utility is bound by the mandate. Any increase in cost gets passed directly to the consumer.
In addition, Minnesota is part of MISO, a regional energy market, which ultimately determines which sources of generation serve the region. As a result, small Minnesota peaking plants that are important for reliability could close in response to the 100 percent requirement, while plants in other states would profit from market sales into Minnesota.
Great River Energy has exited two contracts for coal-based electricity in recent years and, in 2017, retired a North Dakota coal-based power plant. Improvements at Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station power plant have reduced the plant’s emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury by up to 40 percent, nitrogen oxides by 20 percent and carbon dioxide by 4 percent in recent years, while operational adjustments allow the plant to ramp down production when market conditions warrant.
Great River Energy’s renewable portfolio currently includes 469 megawatts (MW) of wind energy, 200 MW of hydropower and 4 MW of solar Great River Energy signed a purchase power agreement for a new 300-megawatt wind project to be built in North Dakota. Construction on this wind project is slated to be completed by the end of the year.
Great River Energy will continue to maintain a diverse portfolio in order to best serve its member-owner cooperatives. We believe this approach is the best way to ensure Great River Energy continues to provide its member-owner cooperatives with reliable, affordable wholesale power in an environmentally sound manner.
Feb 18, 2019