Why we need coal: Xcel urges Minnesota residents to lower their thermostats to 60 because of “significant strain” on Xcel’s natural gas system

Customers in central Minnesota were asked to turn heat down to 60 or lower to prevent widespread natural gas outages due to extreme cold. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Xcel Energy to dial down their thermostats to 60 degrees until further notice because the utility is “experiencing a significant strain” on its natural gas system due to the extreme cold, a statement from the service provider read. The request covers Xcel customers in Becker, Big Lake, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Princeton and Isanti.

People in those communities are also being urged to idle other natural gas appliances and skip using hot water.

“Your cooperation is critical to try to prevent widespread natural gas outages,” the statement continued. “To try to keep your home warm, you may want to use electric space heaters.”

About 150 customers in Princeton lost natural gas service around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the utility said. The goal is to have the gas flowing again sometime Thursday, but it may take another day. In the meantime, Xcel said it’s securing hotel rooms for affected customers.

If the city of Becker rings a bell for you, it is because it is the home of Sherburne County coal-fired power plant, which is the largest power plant in the state. Sherco, as it is informally called, is the workhouse of Minnesota’s electric sector, producing roughly 1/6th of the electricity generated in-state. However, Xcel Energy is closing down Units 1 and 2, leaving Unit 3 open, so it can build…

A natural gas plant there.

Today’s weather is the reality that shatters the fairy tales of the renewable energy crowd that urges us to shut down our coal and nuclear power plants and rely on renewables, that are backed up by natural gas. As I wrote earlier, the wind isn’t blowing today. The fact that natural-gas provider Xcel Energy is urging people to use coal-fired electric heaters to keep their houses warm reinforces the fact that coal is vitally important to providing reliable electricity, and we should not take it for granted.