A bill allowing Xcel Energy to build a natural-gas-fired power plant in Becker in central Minnesota awaits a vote in the full state Senate after a committee approved the plan late last week. It would partially replace two coal-fired units that Xcel plans to shut down by 2026, which Mayor Tracy Bertram says will cost hundreds of jobs. Bertram says, “The news of the decommissioning sent waves of uncertainty through our city, not only with our citizens but our business owners.” She says lawmakers’ decision to locate a new plant in Becker “will assure certainty and calm in our community.”
Citizen Ken Graeve told lawmakers there’s an alternative to natural gas that will save those jobs. Grave says, “Why not use that site, with its transmission capacity already in place, for some sort of renewable energy storage facility?” He’s critical of natural gas power plants, saying “now that we’re getting a lot of our gas via fracking, there’s a lot of concern that, because of leakage, that natural gas has a much worse climate impact than even coal.”
When the state Public Utilities Commission earlier approved Xcel’s plan to shut down the coal-fired plants in Becker, it effectively asked the utility to look more closely at renewable energy alternatives along with natural gas. Opponents of the bill say it skips review by state regulators, removing consumer protections and allowing Xcel to do what it wants.
Here’s Mayor Bertram’s testimony in committee:
And Graeve’s comments: