More power, cleaner air

Minnesota State Roundup

Published July 1, 2002  | July 2002 issue

In early May, Xcel Energy Inc. announced a $1 billion plan to convert two Twin Cities power plants from coal to natural gas to increase generating capacity at those plants by 400 megawatts and to upgrade pollution-control equipment at a third plant. The three plants, among the oldest in Xcel's 12-state region, currently account for nearly a fourth of the total power generated by Xcel's eight Minnesota plants.

Xcel says the coal-to-gas conversions will "virtually eliminate emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury." Adding generating capacity at the city plants should also reduce the need to expand transmission capacity to bring power in from plants elsewhere.

Pending regulatory approval, the cost of the plan will be paid through added charges on residential and commercial bills, estimated at $3.50 to $4 more per month for an average household. Some analysts have said Xcel is wise to make the move before the electricity industry is deregulated, since now it can be assured of passing improvement costs on to consumers.

Douglas Clement