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Xcel Energy : CEO predicts rosy future as energy moves away from coal

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11/17/2017 | 06:00am CET

Subscribe to the MPR News with Tom Weber podcast

By the year 2020, Xcel Energy's power grid will use 35 percent renewable sources, and less than a quarter of energy will come from coal.

It will have slashed carbon emissions by nearly half, and customers won't see much of a change in their bills - if not a lower bill.

That's according to the utility's CEO Ben Fowke, who spoke with MPR News host Tom Weber on Friday.

But how will Minnesota's largest utility get to this point?

Increased use of renewable energy, and the highly controversial method of extracting natural gas from the earth known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fowke said fracking "truly has been a game-changer" for Xcel. Fracking involves shooting highly pressurized liquid into rock beneath the earth's surface, cracking the rock and releasing natural gas.

Fracking can contaminate water, expose people nearby to harmful substances and even cause earthquakes.

For utilities, though, it also brings inexpensive power. Natural gas costs used to be between $8 and $10 per unit, Fowke said. Now, it's between $2 and $3 a unit.

While Xcel is pushing toward renewables, Fowke said, fossil fuels like natural gas and coal are necessary for the utility to keep its power grid reliable.

And as natural gas and renewable energy - especially wind - become more economical, coal is getting phased out.

That's happening in Minnesota now as Xcel phases out the Sherco coal plant in Becker.

"It's not really a matter of if coal plants are gonna retire," Fowke said, "it's a matter of when."

Use the audio player above to hear Weber's full interview with Fowke, plus some listener calls.

Editor's note (Nov. 17, 2017): An earlier headline on this story was unclear about the nature of Xcel's energy future. The headline has been updated to clarify.

© KNOW Minnesota Public Radio, Copyright © 2017 APM. All rights reserved., source Newspapers

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Financials ($)
Sales 2017 11 751 M
EBIT 2017 2 299 M
Net income 2017 1 176 M
Debt 2017 15 891 M
Yield 2017 2,83%
P/E ratio 2017 22,03
P/E ratio 2018 20,73
EV / Sales 2017 3,55x
EV / Sales 2018 3,55x
Capitalization 25 840 M
Duration : Period :
Xcel Energy Inc Technical Analysis Chart | XEL | US98389B1008 | 4-Traders
Technical analysis trends XCEL ENERGY INC
Short TermMid-TermLong Term
Income Statement Evolution
Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 13
Average target price 49,7 $
Spread / Average Target -2,4%
EPS Revisions
Benjamin G. S. Fowke Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer
Kent T. Larson President-Group Operations & Executive VP
Robert C. Frenzel Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
A. Patricia Sampson Independent Director
Richard K. Davis Independent Director
Sector and Competitors
1st jan.Capitalization (M$)
XCEL ENERGY INC25.04%25 840
DUKE ENERGY CORP14.04%61 960
SOUTHERN CO3.62%51 155
IBERDROLA3.79%48 181