Colorado energy company Xcel goes crazy green

One starts to suspect there is a lot of hype, and maybe securities fraud, going on here

David Wojick, PhD

Awhile back, I wrote an article about how the radical Colorado Energy Plan is actually designed to serve the gigantic Colorado utility company Xcel – not Colorado families and businesses – by beefing up Xcel’s asset base … and bottom line … with $2.5 billion worth of new generating capacity.

The kicker is that the Plan substitutes expensive, unreliable wind power for affordable, reliable coal-generated electricity, and thus is really part of a clever corporate strategy designed by Xcel.

Xcel’s plan was to get past 50% renewable. But now it has doubled down on that. The company just announced that it plans to become 100% “emissions free” by 2050. Xcel serves eight states from Colorado to Michigan, so a lot of people should be grabbing their wallets at this point.

Of course this is all based on the bogus “dangerous manmade climate change” scare, but Xcel stands to make huge profits from it. Being a regulated utility, the more it spends, the more it makes (and the more its customers pay) – while the utility gets to strut its supposed ecological virtues.

Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO, Xcel Energy puts it this way: “We’re accelerating our carbon reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it, and committed to working with partners to make it happen.

I doubt the customers asking for it have any idea what it will cost them.

The Greens love it, of course. Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, says it is all about “carbon dioxide pollution,” which is a hoax. Here is Krupp’s claim:

“Ambitious efforts to slash carbon dioxide pollution are urgently needed. Xcel Energy’s vision will help speed the day when the United States eliminates all such pollution from its power sector, which is necessary to seize the environmental and economic opportunity of powering cars, trucks, homes and businesses with cost-effective, zero-emitting electricity.”

Keep in mind, this “carbon dioxide pollution” is what you exhale every time you breathe. It’s what animals exhale. It’s what plants inhale – and the more carbon dioxide (CO2) there is in the air, the faster and better crop, forest and grassland plants grow, using less water in the process.

Colorado’s radical green Governor-elect Jared Polis is politically ecstatic, saying: “When I launched my campaign back in 2017, we had a bold agenda for our state – to get to 100% renewable by 2040. Xcel Energy’s exciting announcement today, along with the strong climate goals communities like Pueblo, Summit County, Ft. Collins, Denver and others across the state have embraced, shows we are leading the way forward right here in Colorado – by committing to a renewable and clean energy future.”

Polis and the others are deeply mistaken in thinking Xcel means 100% renewables. That is actually impossible, because wind and solar generation are highly intermittent, as I explain here. Xcel knows this too, but hides it with the following vague statements:

Achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost effective or commercially available today. That is why Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting the necessary policies in place to achieve this transition.” (Emphasis added)

Zero emissions and 100% renewables are two very different things, as I explain here in my article “100% Renewable Deception.” In fact, Xcel is planning to use enormous numbers of batteries, plus fossil-fuel generation with carbon (CO2) capture and storage. That is, both chemical and carbon-based energy.

In particular, fossil fueled generation with carbon capture and storage (CCS) means immensely more fossil fuels must be used to create and operate all of this hi-tech and largely unproven technology. And that means hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars in additional costs for Colorado businesses and families. All to capture and store the trace gas (0.04% or 400 parts per million of Earth’s atmosphere) that we exhale.

Note too that the supposed battery and carbon-capture-and-storage technologies do not even exist in usable form. How then does Xcel know they will be cost effective? Clearly they cannot know this. I have seen no hint of an engineering plan or cost estimate for bringing this scheme off – and doubt one exists.

Increased reliance on intermittent, weather-dependent wind power also increases grid instability and the likelihood of blackouts, brownouts and rolling outages. Customers more and more often get power when it’s available, instead of when they need it.

Also keep in mind that “emissions free” really means no emissions from electricity sources located in Colorado. The misleading claim completely ignores the massive emissions elsewhere in the world – of very real pollution, as well as emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide – in the process of mining and processing the enormous amounts of metals, hydrocarbons and other materials required to make those turbines, manufacturing the 600-foot-tall windmills, transporting and installing them, and so on.

Enormous amounts of metals and other materials are also needed for the backup fossil fuel power plants, CCS equipment, extra-long transmission lines – or massive battery arrays, if Xcel decides it’s going to use “clean, green” batteries instead of coal- or gas-fired backup power plants. Those backup systems, by the way, actually do 70-85% of the electricity generation, because the wind turbines only work 15-30% of the time. And it all impacts millions of acres of once pristine land, in Colorado and elsewhere.

One more important point, while we’re on the topic of corporate ethics and environmental virtue: A lot of those metals and minerals – especially the rare earths, lithium, cobalt, cadmium and other specialty items required in all this high-tech equipment – come from China, Mongolia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other faraway, out-of-sight-and-mind places. Places where child labor is common, and health, safety and environmental standards are all but non-existent.

You could think of them as the renewable energy equivalent of “Blood Diamonds,” like the ones Leonardo DiCaprio dislikes so intensely that he made a movie about them – when he wasn’t driving his heavily subsidized Tesla, which also uses extensive “blood battery” technology.

(Xcel and its lawyers and environmental and political friends didn’t mention any of that? That’s really surprising, considering how often they emphasize their ethics and planet-saving virtues.)

A lot of people who buy into the climate scare invest on the basis of “greenness.” Given that Xcel is a publicly traded, stockholder owned corporation, one wonders if this “we are the greenest in the land” hype – or any of the lofty but specific promises Xcel has been making – amount to securities fraud.

Perhaps this potential fraud is something the SEC and FTC should look into.

David Wojick is an independent analyst specializing in science and logic in public policy.

54 thoughts on “Colorado energy company Xcel goes crazy green

  1. If there are any steel mills or anything else that requires energy to smelt or melt metal they won’t be located in Colorado long. Every other producer of those products will be able to sell for half the cost of production in Colorado – unless the natives are willing to work for half the wages paid elsewhere.

      • Total misinformation traffy:

        The only weak spot for electric arc furnaces is initially smelting ore into iron. Blast furnaces are still far more efficient for smelting sponge iron.

        Once past the initial smelt, melting iron for casting or refining iron into steel, electric arc furnaces are current technology.

        When ferro ore was reduced to sponge iron by blast furnace, it must be melted by Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) to remove the impurities, then adjust the component to your required steel. So EAF can be used to produce Pure iron, Fine carbon steel, Casting iron, Metal refining, also can be used to hold Temperature for using.”

        What is even better, electric arc furnaces work for many metals and nonmetals; e.g. silicon.

        • Yes, electric arc steel making is essential for the production of high quality steels and alloys. With out electric arc steel technology it is impossible to get the impurities down to tolerable levels. Furthermore, electric arc technology makes possible properly controlled heat treatment, forging, and normalizing of high grade steels.

    • A large electric furnace is one of the worst possible customers for an electrical power suppliers. It is an understatement to say that their power demand is ‘rough’. I love the thought of a battery of windmills jumping, bouncing and twitching as they attempt to meet the vast electrical splutterings of a furnace coming on line. It won’t happen.

  2. Perhaps they really mean they are going to build nuclear power plants? They build enough of those they can add in intermittent energy sources on top.

    CO2 capture and storage – a recipe for disaster unless they store it as a carbonate mineral.

    For every government regulation, there is a person out there figuring out how to make money off of it.

  3. Rate payers and Colorado tax payers can expect thinner wallets from this.
    On the other hand, Xcel is a large publicly traded company, but a regulated one.
    The Company will expect to be treated nicely by the Colorado politicians.

    I suspect we have a small investment in this company through a large diversified mutual fund. I suppose I should thank the fine citizens of Colorado for their support.

  4. Damn, and here I’m getting ready to move to CO from CA, in part to escape insane Green power policies and priced. What can be done to challenge this, apart from the suggested SEC action, which is probably a long shot?

    • Been here in CO for 60+ years. Seen lots of CA people move here in that time, my wife one of ’em. And we’re gettin’ out. Just as soon as possible. Caveat emptor.

      • Also interesting to note: Colorado surpassed two states in oil production in August and September (the latest data available at EIA website). The two states? Alaska and California.

  5. The insanity of this is beginning to numb my brain.

    Seriously all I see is “Beer and Circus” for the masses. Thank you public education.

  6. Don’t these idiots know that cannabis producers need cheap reliable power… and must purchase carbon dioxide? We are talking strategic and critical infrastructure here.

  7. ‘Awhile back, I wrote an article about how the radical Colorado Energy Plan is actually designed to serve the gigantic Colorado utility company Xcel – not Colorado families and businesses – by beefing up Xcel’s asset base … and bottom line … with $2.5 billion worth of new generating capacity.

    The kicker is that the Plan substitutes expensive, unreliable wind power for affordable, reliable coal-generated electricity, and thus is really part of a clever corporate strategy designed by Xcel.’

    With all due respect, Dr Wojick, Xcel is compelled to do 30% by state law (r: Colo. Rev. Stat. §40-2-124). Impuning Xcel is tasteless. The state government is where the problem is.

    • Xcel stated a goal of 100 percent, not 30. And they serve 7 states more than just CO.

      Looks like you stopped reading one paragraph prematurely.

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  9. A coal- fired plant was built in my home state in the late 70s. The utility operated with a guaranteed profit, based on costs. One very obvious increase to their operating costs was seen in a row of coal rail cars parked on a siding, which never moved, for years. The rationale was that the cars might be needed for some emergency, which might be a valid point, but for years, those cars sat idly in place, while rate payers footed the bill.

    Utilities do a fine job keeping us supplied with power, but a guaranteed profit is a certain recipe for graft, if the regulators are compromised.

    • So you dig into an undocumented claim. A utility keeping emergency power plant fuel on hand and paying rent to have it mobile is proof of corruption for you. While ignoring Steyer’s robots destroying entire states to maintain his investments in wind and solar.
      Steyer be and the other green parasites are taking corporate corruption to new extremes.

      • My statement was a personal anecdote. I haven’t dug into anything. It isn’t an undocumented claim, I witnessed empty, new rail cars, sitting for years. I no longer live in that region and they might still be sitting there, for all I know. Those brand new, idle rail cars added to the cost basis of the power plant, which increased the profit to the utility. What part of that do you not understand?

        How did you get the idea that I ignore anything, or let attacks by the incoherent, go unchallenged?

  10. Benefits to raising the CO2 level higher than the global average, up to 1500 ppm. With CO2 maintained at this level, yields can be increased by as much as 30%!

  11. Excel couldn’t do it without the full cooperation and coordination of the Colorado and Minnesota state legislatures. Quite the game.

    • And , then there is the Minnesota grid tie-in with Manitoba-Hydro.

      B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec are the big hydro-power sources in Canada that can supply electricity to the U.S. And Minnesota can send excess power production to Manitoba-Hydro as a power storage source for renewables?

      • “And Minnesota can send excess power production to Manitoba-Hydro as a power storage source for renewables?”

        As the technology for massive storage has not been developed yet, how do you propose to do this?

          • Since battery technology is not up to snuff yet to use as very large storage, send the excess electrical power from solar or wind back to the dam to pump water back above the dam instead.

            No long pipe runs needed.

  12. a state that thrives on pushing people and materials 1.5 miles into the sky just so they can come back down.

    yeah, I’d feel guilty too.

    ps. loved the heated sidewalks.

  13. The International Energy Association has admitted in its latest report that total global primary energy supplied by solar and wind amounts to 1.1% This magnificent % total has been reached after 30 years and $ trillions in subsidies and other extra costs. If the Colorado utility wants to go 100% renewable by 2050, it had better start building nuclear plants first thing tomorrow morning.

  14. This is a very well constructed, logically presented and persuasive article. Many writers who try to rebut the deceitful spin of the renewable industry would do well to learn from the style, vocabulary and structure of this post, which sticks to the point and presents relevant detail in a clearly sequenced and reasoned way.

    So many writers on this topic go off on byzantine tangents of arcana, esoterica, minutae and technismo. This may serve for academic dissertations but only turns off members of the public who have a genuine and intelligent interest in such matters. And it is in the public arena that the war must be won. Up till now, the warmists-renewablists-climate nostradami have dominated the public forum because their messaging has been so much more effective. It is time to turn that around.

  15. If Xcel is waiting for “future generation technologies” they won’t have long to wait – molten salt small nuclear reactors will be here before 2030 en mass, eliminating any thoughts of primitive renewable generation. In the meantime, lets look at the pristine Colorado landscapes with their 500 foot tall windmills slicing and dicing their bird and bat populations. Obviously Xcel is afraid to mention the word “nuclear” to the grossly ignorant folks populating Colorado.

  16. ‘Zero emissions and 100% renewables are two very different things’

    Oh geez, I didn’t realize this opportunity.

  17. From the post: “Keep in mind, this “carbon dioxide pollution” is what you exhale every time you breathe. It’s what animals exhale. It’s what plants inhale – and the more carbon dioxide (CO2) there is in the air, the faster and better crop, forest and grassland plants grow, using less water in the process.”

    Here is something else to keep in mind: Plants don’t just “inhale” CO2, they “exhale” it too, as stored carbon compounds are metabolized. Look up “plant respiration.” The plants of the world exhibit an amazing clean energy system which just happens to produce a net intake of CO2 as photosynthesis exceeds metabolism. It’s based on carbon, and it’s not pollution. The CO2 emitted by the plant life of the world is an order of magnitude greater than that produced from the combustion (or rather “fast metabolism”) of fossil fuels, and it will remain so. Search “carbon cycle diagram” to see for yourself.

  18. ‘ in the process of mining and processing the enormous amounts of metals, hydrocarbons and other materials required to make those turbines, manufacturing the 600-foot-tall windmills, transporting and installing them, and so on.’ Sounds like a work program which brought Egypt to it’s knees. Building pyramids. Sorry, the pyramids were not built by slaves. The stone masons got paid and Egypt had a mandatory government work programs similar to being drafted into the army for a number of years. o

  19. There is a direct correlation between those who believe wind turbines are a beautiful, virtuous sight and those who have no idea what they pay per kwh, or even what a kwh is.

  20. Dr Wojick appears to have only a passing understanding of the utility industry.

    Yes a utility gets to recoup capital expenditures by getting them included in the rate base. But it has to be approved by the state regulators (PUC’s). And they normally apply for rate increases (or decreases) every 3 – 5 years. These usually are not approved in whole. What does not get included in the rate base are O&M costs. So any increase in cost to operate and maintain gets eaten by the shareholders.

    The next item to consider is the one Gamecock identifies – state and local govt mandates. In addition to a state mandate of 30% renewable, several cities have established or are talking about higher level mandates. Meaning Xcel is going to have to invest in renewables in any event.

    Next and I’d argue the biggest, is the demand from customers. Xcel is currently in A legal battle with city of Boulder over condemnation and takeover of their infrastructure within the city. This negatively impacts a utility in two ways. Compensation for those facilities they have to turn over is rarely 100%. But a more important loss is that of customers. Xcel loses customers to the new municipal utility. And once one city decides they can run their own system, others are more likely to follow.

    Finally, I believe Dr Wojick is incorrect on the mandates and pledges not applying to generation sources outside the state. Most renewable mandates apply regardless of the locations a utility sources its generation.

    Bottom line is this article targets a utility for doing exactly what it should be expected to do. Make the best decisions for its shareholders within the environment it is operating in. Will that lead to high electric bills? Most likely. But the people paying those higher prices are the same people voting for officials who drive renewable mandates and programs. David Wojick owes Xcel an apology.

    • “…[T]his article targets a utility for doing exactly what it is expected to do.”

      Missing from this statement is “who” established those expectations – the customers as Xcel alleges OR the state public utility commissions (PUCs)? Having worked in the New England electric and gas utility fields (investor-owned and not public power) for 30 years, I can assure you the PUCs are setting expectations – not the customers. Yes, some ratepayers preferred a green option on generation and were willing to pay more, but over the past 5-10 years, the green option has been socialized across all ratepayers, who are now obligated to pay more. Sometimes these expectations were mandated through state legislations with the PUCs managing oversight, and other times, the expectations were established by the PUCs themselves (most commissioners are political appointees).

      For a long time, utilities had a fiduciary responsibility (of sorts – not legally) to ensure their systems were run efficiently and effectively. Periodic PUC-mandated management audits (separate of the data-intensive rate cases) provided verification that utilities were meeting these responsibilities. With today’s PUC green expectations, though, almost every supporting project (i.e., generation and/or storage) is allowed (in essence) automatic cost recovery. In addition, utilities can retain the profit derived from a state’s Renewable Energy Credit (REC) program for fossil fuel offsets. Sadly, investor-owned utilities are usually unable to take advantage of the Federal Tax Credit.

      So, installing generation and/or storage is an investment no-brainer for a utility, when the PUCs are the agencies setting expectations. But wait, there are other silly, PUC expectations that “push the green” like… having all ratepayers subsidize the few, residential solar customers via net metering with no lead-in tariffs (like “traditional” generators pay), or… responding to a Regional [Climate] Resiliency Action Plan (R-RAP) by implementing 25- to 50-year plans (going away are the 5- and 10-year plans) on infrastructure improvements, or… mandating reliability standards that require maintenance of traditional generators when renewables fail to meet the regional supply.

      Almost all PUCs approach these competitive and sometimes conflicting expectations as individual initiatives. Rarely do they consider the cumulative or synergistic affects of the individual initiatives. And honestly, why would they? The utilities are the ones left explaining the rate increases – not the PUCs. And the typical ratepayers only knows the cost per kilowatt hour went up – again; they have ZERO appetite for understanding the intricacies of integrating unreliable renewables into the reliable and established base/peak power pool.

  21. Perhaps we should recognize that intermittent power sources are of little practical value even though the energy may be “free”. The purveyors of unreliable renewable energy should be required to make it continuously available, say, online availability of 99.9%. This would mean that along with the windfarm would have to come energy storage, or an alternate generating source (natural gas, for instance) in order to make its reliability equivalent to all other energy sources. This would bring many of these projects to a screeching halt, subsidy or not.

  22. Most likely? Are you suggesting there’s even a snowball’s chance in a warming world that these decisions won’t lead to higher electric bills? Now that’s what I call optimism!
    I don’t recall Xcel ever lobbying to objectively ensure the high electric bill piece of the puzzle was a reality legislators and the PUC should seriously consider. Do you? Shareholder interest is one thing. But what about affordable energy for the masses? No, I don’t think any apology is owed by Mr. Wojick. Sticks and stones don’t phase Xcel in the least.
    If we’re going to assign apology homework though then I suggest the people voting for the officials who drive the renewable mandates and programs in our state(s) apologize to the sane. “Sorry, we’re nuts,” will do.

    • I see where the snarling part comes from. And Thinking Dolphin clearly doesn’t apply. As to “warming world” and electric bills, well for most of Xcel’s service territory, it is possible that warming could result in lower bills. To evaluate that you have to know if a utility’s peak season is winter or summer. Where I live, it’s winter. Not sure about Colorado, but most of Xcel’s other areas are winter peak states.

      As for what Xcel lobbyied for, the only thing I’m sure of is you don’t have the faintest idea. As in you haven’t taken the time to research the record. Because that’s a lot of work. Having worked for a utility, though not on rate cases, pointing out potential costs to rate payers is something they tend to raise to regulators.

      In other words Dolph, you appear to have even less understanding about how utilities work than Dr Wojick does.

  23. Colorado has become a suburb of California and the fruits and nuts land folks are now running the show. And the only thing possibly as dangerous to our freedom, economy and life styles as government are large corporations, particularly pseudo governmental utilities. I worked for a couple of large corporations during my working carreer and know that of which I speak. Was high enough on the corporate ladder to attend board meetings and greed and stupidity are not only found in government but are rampant in large publicly owned corporations. This post is excellent in pointing that out!

  24. Oh,we are so screwed. When you get enough people in one place that believe that crystals can clear your mind, cannabis cures all ills, wolves save rivers, and a man can be a woman by cutting off the extra parts, well heck, this doesn’t seem like it’s that outrageous. Our government here in Colorado just went down the California path to self destruction, homelessness, high taxes, wasted money, and an unbelievable virtue signaling hubris. Can’t move, can’t cry, won’t be fixed before I die.

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