Low natural gas prices helped further Xcel Energy in its quest to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050, with the utility recording its largest single-year decline in emissions in 2019.
Minneapolis-based Xcel said it cut carbon by 5.6 million tons, a more than 10% reduction in one year. Since 2005, the company has reduced carbon emissions by 44%.
“We’re making tremendous progress on our clean energy journey. Our 2019 carbon results demonstrate our ability to transition to low-carbon energy resources while keeping service reliable and customer bills low,” said CEO Ben Fowke.
Several factors contributed to these results, including a marked downturn in U.S. gas prices in which the front of the curve remains well under $2.00/MMBtu, and calendar 2026 is the first yearly strip above the $2.50 mark. Xcel has invested more than $1 billion to improve its natural gas pipelines and tighten its system, and participates in various voluntary methane programs sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Just as we’re committed to reducing carbon emissions from the electricity we provide, we’re also working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our natural gas business and we’re taking several ambitious steps to do so,” Fowke said.
Xcel has joined Our Nation’s Energy Future Coalition Inc. (ONE Future), a consortium of natural gas companies working together to voluntarily reduce methane emissions below 1% by 2025. That’s a level that studies show minimizes impact on the environment.
The company has pledged to keep its methane emissions to less than 0.2% in natural gas operations. Xcel plans to report methane emissions annually to ONE Future, which has reporting standards that go beyond what regulations currently require. Nearly 20 companies have joined the coalition since its inception in 2014, including Williams, Antero Resources Corp., Apache Corp., Berkshire Hathaway Pipeline Group, BHP, Dominion Energy, Equinor ASA, EQT Corp., Hess Corp., Kinder Morgan Inc., National Grid, New Jersey Natural Gas, Noble Energy Inc., Southern Company Gas, Southwestern Energy Co., Summit Utilities and TC Energy Corp.
Increased wind generation on Xcel’s system also contributed to the carbon reduction, with wind energy making up more than 20% of its energy supply last year. Three major wind projects went online in 2018 and 2019, including Rush Creek in Colorado, and Hale and Bonita in Texas, according to the company. Xcel also said flexible coal plant operations and strong performance from the company’s nuclear fleet also aided the decline in emissions.
Xcel serves 3.6 million electric and two million natural gas customers across parts of Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.