PSC says 'no' to an advanced determination of prudence for a MN solar project

Sep 17, 2015

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has decided against giving Xcel Energy an “advanced determination of prudence” for a second solar power project in Minnesota.

The PSC earlier denied Xcel’s request for a determination on a 187 megawatt solar project in Minnesota. This new one was a 100 megawatt project.

An “advanced determination of prudence” would mean Xcel would be able to add the cost to its North Dakota ratepayers without a separate rate case. Commissioner Brian Kalk says Xcel would have bought the power from that project – and it would cost ratepayers across the utility’s system $62 million over 20 years. North Dakota’s share would be about 5 percent. But Kalk says this doesn’t make sense for North Dakota customers.

"It's clearly built for Minnesota's solar energy goals," said Kalk. "That's something they have to do for Minnesota -- I get that. But we're going to hold to our principles of least cost and need. This just doesn't cut the mustard on that one by any means."

Xcel North Dakota manager Mark Nisbet says he was disappointed in the PSC’s decision. He says Xcel has a strong commitment to renewable energy – including solar.

"It isn't a carbon-producer," said Nisbet. "It avoids the potential of some of the costs that will be borne from the (EPA's) clean power plan."

Xcel can come back to the PSC and ask for the costs – as part of an overall rate case.