Xcel Energy Draws a Line in the Sand: Utility Company Pledges to Go Carbon-Free by 2050

The New Year beckons, as the final weeks of 2018 closes out an exciting year in clean and renewable energy development.

By all indications, next year will see renewables in the U.S. soar to new heights, but before we say goodbye to 2018, we want to spotlight Xcel Energy, who just announced a major initiative that will shape the direction that the U.S. utility industry takes in the coming years.

Earlier this month, Xcel Energy, one of the largest utilities in the country, announced an ambitious new goal: They will become the first utility to deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.

“This is an extraordinary time to work in the energy industry, as we’re providing customers more low-cost clean energy than we could have imagined a decade ago,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, in the press announcement. “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.”

The Minneapolis-based utility company provides the electricity for eight states in the Midwestern and Western regions—including Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico.

Xcel’s announcement builds off their longstanding work in clean energy. In 2017, the power company slashed the emissions from their commercial electricity by 35 percent, with the 2005 carbon levels serving as the baseline.

However, Xcel’s clean energy endeavors are not solely based in altruism: The changing demands of the market and the public mean that taking a proactive approach to renewables is in Xcel’s best interest.

The public opinion surrounding clean power has undeniably changed, and this year, traditional power providers have come under fire from a consumer base that is looking to newer alternatives.

Xcel’s renewed dedication to clean energy signals their understanding of where the industry will go next.

Another factor that continues to influence the utility industry is the speed in which renewable energy is becoming affordable for mainstream markets. In Colorado, for example, renewables are entering the market at a much lower cost than what was previously projected.

While Xcel’s new initiative earns the company positive optics in the eyes of the media, their goal is much more focused on economics and remaining competitive in the coming years.

Xcel Energy is an industry leader, and other utilities will take note of their stance on clean energy. More importantly, so will consumers—with support increasing for clean energy, and industries like wind and solar now competitive in the marketplace, utilities must embrace and invest in innovation or they risk being left behind.

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