Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Xcel Energy CEO discusses energy future at Voices of Experience event

Dick Kelly, CEO of Xcel Energy, discussed the current and future decisions of his company in front of nearly 100 people gathered at the Cable Center on May 6. The event was part of the Daniels College of Business’ Voices of Experience speaker series.

Xcel Energy has 3.4 million electric customers and 1.9 million gas customers. It services most of Colorado. Xcel Energy is the No. 1 provider of wind energy in the nation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Kelly said Xcel Energy’s long-term goals include converting coal-fired plants to natural gas, supporting environmental progress and maintaining their ethical responsibilities. Kelly briefly focused on how his company balances the environment, shareholders and customers.

“We’ve spent the past few years getting ready for a clean energy future,” Kelly said.

Two peaceful protesters and self-described activists for clean energy jobs—Joe Ferrone and Ben Jordan, business partners who install solar panels—carried signs that read: I voted to cut carbon in line with what science demands, new coal does not equal leadership and clean energy jobs now!

“We came here tonight because we know Xcel can do way better and they brag about a lot of their environmental improvements but the truth is that a lot of those improvements are forced upon them by voters,” Ferrone said.

Audience members asked questions during the open forum portion of the event.

Several questions were about Comanche 3, a new coal-fired electric generating unit Xcel Energy is constructing in Pueblo, Colo. Comanche 3 is projected to be completed this fall and will cost around $1.3 billion dollars.

Some audience members wanted to know why rate payers needed to pay more for it to be brought online right now.

“Comanche 3 allows us to shut down older, less efficient plants, which is good for the customers,” said Kelly.

“The biggest thing that brought us here tonight was all the questions that you hear on the Comanche 3. They definitely don’t need it,” said Ferrone. “They could bring in concentrated solar or even geothermal or flywheel technologies, all are other options that we know would be less expensive in the long run.”

Questions also covered topics such as the future of electric cars and how to sequester carbon.

“The electric car is coming very quickly and the plug-in electric hybrid is the future,” said Kelly. “A couple plants in the U.S. are capturing the carbon and trying to sequester it. We are doing research in Colorado to find out if we can do this and taking it to the next step. It won’t be commercially viable until 2020, 2023.”

Others wanted to know more about what Xcel Energy is doing in terms of promoting LED lighting to replace other lighting sources and using solar energy.

“The feedback we’ve gotten is that the customers don’t like the LED lighting,” said Kelly. “We should be pushing solar energy in states like Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.”

Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of customers Xcel serves in Colorado.

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