ND PSC approves Xcel Energy plan to sell renewable energy credits, share money with customers

By Dale Wetzel, AP
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ND PSC approves selling renewable energy credits

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota regulators on Wednesday endorsed most of an Xcel Energy Inc. plan for selling its renewable energy credits and sharing the money with its electric customers in the state.

Xcel, which is based in Minneapolis, provides electric service to about 87,000 North Dakota customers, including the cities of Fargo, West Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk said credit sales could shave less than $2 a year from residential customers’ bills, although the size of the benefit will depend on what price the credits fetch.

“That is one of the keys, that our consumers need to be benefiting from these types of projects,” Kalk said Wednesday.

Xcel accumulates credits based upon the amount of electric power it generates from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. North Dakota now expects to get about 300,000 credits annually, and the yearly number is expected to grow to 450,000 by 2015, according to Public Service Commission filings.

Xcel, which sells electricity in eight states, may use the credits to meet state directives that a set percentage of its electric sales be generated by renewable sources. It may also sell them to other utilities that need help in meeting renewable energy mandates.

North Dakota law sets a goal for utilities to generate 10 percent of their electric sales from renewables by 2015. But it is not a mandate, which means Xcel has no reason to redeem its credits in North Dakota.

During a meeting Wednesday, the state Public Service Commission supported allowing Xcel Energy to sell its North Dakota credits as it saw fit, as long as 90 percent of the profits were returned to its electric customers in the state.

Xcel proposed an 85-15 split, but the commissioners favored a 90 percent share for North Dakota customers because the utility made a similar agreement with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

“If there are people in Wisconsin and Minnesota that want to pay our companies for renewable energy credits to meet their obligations, and we can apply that to our customers’ bills, I’m all for that,” PSC Chairman Kevin Cramer said.

Any benefit from credit sales will be shown on a part of rate payers’ bills that is adjusted regularly to reflect changes in the cost of fuel Xcel buys to generate electricity, the North Dakota regulators said.

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