MN Public Utilities Commissioner Sullivan warns the public will ‘absolutely revolt’ if the grid becomes unreliable

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) vice chairman Joe Sullivan told attendees at a conference hosted by the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association that “the public will absolutely revolt” if there is a major blackout in Minnesota, according to MinnPost.

Let’s hope he’s right.

Sullivan, who is generally considered to be one of the more reasonable PUC commissioners, continued:

A prudent transition, Sullivan said, includes keeping power rates reasonable when the industry is in a “once in a 50-or-60-year building cycle” for energy infrastructure. Those projects will have costs that flow into power bills. And Sullivan said prudent management means ensuring reliability of the power grid because the “margin of error gets tighter” as old fossil fuel plants are replaced with renewable power.

Sullivan’s comments are a mixed bag. He pays lip service to affordability and reliability, but the actions taken by the PUC have put Minnesota electric bills on an upward trajectory and undermined grid reliability.

This includes his vote to approve the premature closure of Xcel Energy’s reliable coal plants in their integrated resource plan and his approval for hundreds of millions of dollars for new solar facilities and transmission lines. As I recently wrote, these projects will necessarily increase the cost of electricity for Minnesota families and businesses because solar costs are soaring.

It is essential for the public to understand that these results were entirely foreseeable. In fact, Mitch Rolling and I submitted over 90 pages of testimony in 2021, warning that approving Xcel’s coal plant closures would increase costs and decrease grid reliability. Unfortunately, the commission ignored these warnings, leading us to a situation where reserve margins are thin, and the chances of blackouts are growing.

The public should “absolutely revolt” when the skyrocketing costs and rolling blackouts come to Minnesota. When the blackouts hit, it will be because of the misguided decisions made by the PUC and legislation passed by liberal lawmakers to hasten the shutdown of reliable power plants in favor of unreliable wind and solar power, reducing our margin for error.