Minnesota Power is not overly concerned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants. The utility is, by its own admission, well-positioned to meet the aggressive carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction goals thanks to its EnergyForward strategy launched in early 2013.
“Diversity in the nation’s energy supply is essential to maintaining the reliability and security of the electric grid and to ensure an affordable, abundant supply of energy for our electric customers,” said Minnesota Power Vice President of Strategy & Planning Al Rudeck. “We recognize that people have concerns about the impact of carbon on climate change and public health. We anticipated strong greenhouse gas rules and have taken early measures to transition our energy supply to a more diverse mix of sources.”
By the end of this year, 25 percent of the electricity Minnesota Power provides customers will come from renewable, emission free energy sources. This is due mainly to large additions of wind energy, with the company adding more than 600 megawatts of new wind capacity to its system by the end of 2014. As a result of wind investments, the company will meet Minnesota’s 25 percent by 2025 renewable goal more than a decade earlier than state law requires.
The company’s resource plan, approved in September of 2013 by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, demonstrates how the EnergyForward strategy transitions the company’s energy mix through a combination of idling or repowering smaller coal units — a dramatic shift toward renewables, strong energy conservation and efficiency programs and reducing coal use to one-third of Minnesota Power’s energy supply.
In contrast, in 2005 the company’s energy portfolio was 95 percent coal-based. EnergyForward also includes efficiency upgrades and installation of new emission reduction equipment at its baseload generation facilities that are critical to meet the needs of its customer base.
Through recent EnergyForward investments, Minnesota Power estimates a reduction of carbon emissions from its system by a total of four million tons of CO2 annually by 2016.
Additionally, the utility’s Power of One energy efficiency and conservation programs have resulted in a 6.2 percent energy savings to date, avoiding the equivalent of a carbon reduction of nearly 700,000 tons of CO2.
Minnesota Power’s resource strategy also adds 250 MW of hydropower from Manitoba Hydro via the Great Northern Transmission Line beginning in 2020, and is a key component to achieving an energy mix of one-third renewable, one-third natural gas and one-third coal, while providing renewable hydro-electric generation resources when the wind is not blowing.
“The EPA’s new rule will require careful review. If the targets set forth by EPA are reasonable by allowing states like Minnesota, that took carbon emission reduction early action, to count their early emission reductions towards satisfying EPA’s targets, we believe we are in a good position under our EnergyForward strategy to meet this new regulation,” said Minnesota Power Executive Vice President Dave McMillan.