Xcel Energy should follow Indiana utility in keeping coal plants open longer

An Indiana electric company has announced they will delay the closure of two units at a coal-fired power plant because of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce of the alleged price-dumping of solar panels in American markets by solar panel manufacturers in Southeast Asia. Xcel Energy should do the same with Sherco units 2 and 1 in Becker, Minnesota.

According to Utility Dive, the two units of the Schahfer plant in Indiana total 847 MW and were initially meant to be retired by May 2023. The plan was to replace the coal plant with solar projects in 2022 and 2023, according to NiSource’s utility subsidiary, Northern Indiana Public Service (NIPSCO). 

Solar projects originally scheduled for completion in 2022 and 2023 could experience six to 18 months of delays as the Department of Commerce investigates whether components and panels manufactured in China are bypassing tariffs through Southeast Asian countries.

These solar project delays will almost certainly impact the enormous solar facility that Xcel Energy is planning to build near the Sherburne County coal plant, which is the largest power plant in the state. As a result, Xcel should delay its unwise plan to retire Sherburne County unit 2 in 2023, and unit 1 in 2026.

Keeping these plants open longer would not only provide good-paying jobs for the region, but would also keep a crucial source of reliable, affordable electricity online. This is of increasing importance, as the regional grid operator has warned that the grid does not have enough reliable capacity online to meet peak summer demand plus a reserve margin of safety.