Reaching new audiences on energy
This week, Center of the American Experiment kicked off a campaign to reach out to new audiences with our radio ads on Minnesota’s rising cost of energy. The radio ads…
Xcel Energy CEO, Ben Fowke, was the fourth-highest paid CEO in Minnesota in 2019, making $23.3 million in total compensation, according to an analysis in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. As proponents of free market principles, Center of the American Experiment does not take issue with CEO compensation at private companies, but as we have discussed many times before, Xcel Energy is not a private company.
Private companies must compete for your business. If you don’t like their product or their price, you are free to choose another provider. But Xcel Energy is a government approved monopoly, not a private company, and their “customers” are forced by the government of Minnesota to buy their energy from Xcel, regardless of the cost. If the customers don’t like it, well that’s just too damn bad.
Not only does Xcel Energy enjoy customers that have no other option, the company has been actively working to boost their bottom line by making electricity more expensive for Minnesota families and businesses by supporting regulations and policies that make our electricity less reliable and more costly.
The picture below was taken from Fresh Energy’s website. It shows Fresh Energy’s science policy director, J. Drake Hamilton shaking President Obama’s hand at a ceremony to announce the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was a regulation designed to regulate coal-fired power plants out of business and replace them with wind and solar. In the background, you can see Ben Fowke, the CEO of Xcel.
Fresh Energy’s press release read:
“President Barack Obama on August 3 formally released the long-awaited Clean Power Plan that will limit carbon pollution from U.S. power plants, by far the largest cause of global warming. The Clean Power Plan would cut emissions 32 percent by 2030, from 2005 levels, mostly by creating disincentives to burn coal to generate electricity and creating incentives to replace coal with renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The President invited Fresh Energy’s science policy director, J. Drake Hamilton, to join him at a small group meeting in the White House prior to his historic announcement of the single greatest step the United States has taken thus far to combat climate change. J. was thrilled to participate as one of only two Minnesotans – the other being Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke.
President Obama told J.’s group, “the Clean Power Plan could not have been completed without the tireless efforts of leaders, advocates, and experts like yourself. As a result of your hard work, we will be able to protect our nation’s health while continuing to grow a vibrant clean energy economy.”
We have discussed many times that building renewables has been a boon to Xcel Energy’s government guaranteed corporate profits, and the Clean Power Plan would have been just the trick to allow Xcel to prematurely shut down their low-cost, reliable coal plants and line their pockets by building even more wind turbines, solar panels, and of course, enough natural gas power plants to power the whole grid so the lights don’t go off when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.
The Clean Power Plan would have been a gold mine for Xcel (if the Trump administration had not scrapped it) because it would have allowed Xcel to tell the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that the federal government was forcing their hand with these regulations, and even though these polices would increase the cost of electricity for their customers, they were just following federal orders by closing down their coal plants and building wind and solar.
Xcel Energy often claims that they are a victim to the laws and regulations imposed upon them by lawmakers. This may have been true in 2007, when Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate was signed into law, but it is no longer true today. The truth is, Xcel Energy actively lobbies state policymakers in favor of laws and regulations that will enrich the company at the expense of Minnesota families.
In fact, only two entities spent more money lobbying the government in 2019 than Xcel, which employed 33 lobbyists to try and push legislation that would allow the company to fleece their captive customers out of more of their hard earned money by building more wind and solar.
Unfortunately, Xcel’s behavior won’t change unless it has to. One way to force Xcel to stop wasting money on wind turbines and solar panels that don’t work very well is to give Minnesotans the freedom to choose their own electricity provider. Only then will Xcel Energy be forced to keep their costs low in order to retain customers and remain in business.
If Minnesotans did have the freedom to choose their own electricity provider, the compensation paid to Xcel’s CEO wouldn’t matter, because the company would have earned those profits, but until that day comes, no one should celebrate Xcel for shooting fish in a barrel.