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Xcel Energy has accelerated its energy engine in utility markets across the US. The utility holding company distributes electricity to 3.4 million customers and natural gas to 1.9 million in eight states through four regulated utilities; Colorado and Minnesota account for most of its customers. Its utilities -- Northern States Power (NSP-Minnesota and NSP-Wisconsin), Public Service Company of Colorado, and Southwestern Public Service (in New Mexico and Texas) -- have the combined capacity of more than 17,150 MW of electricity. Xcel owns transmission and distribution lines, as well as natural gas assets. It is also the top wind power provider in the US, with wind farms in Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas.
The company serves customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Xcel operates power and gas utilities: Northern States Power, Public Service Company of Colorado, and Southwestern Public Service. The holding company has more than 80 generating plants, more than 87,750 miles of transmission lines and about 191,840 miles of distribution lines. It also operates an interstate natural gas pipeline company and a joint venture to develop and lease natural gas pipelines, storage, and compression assets.
In 2011 Xcel reported a 3% jump in sales due to an increase in demand caused by a warmer-than-normal summer and a colder-than-normal winter. It was also assisted by a 3.7% increase in the electric segment due to cost recovery of the acquisition of the Rocky Mountain and Blue Spruce natural gas facilities by Public Service Company of Colorado and by natural gas retail rate increases in Minnesota.
Net income rose by 11% thanks to higher revenues and lower electric fuel and purchased power costs.
Higher rates and increased weather-related demand helped sales in 2010 to rise nearly 7%, going from $9.6 billion to about $10.3 billion.
Xcel is an energy company in transition, with long-term plans to move from coal-fired plants to natural gas, and on to alternative fuels such as wind, solar, and biomass to boost its green power capacity (88,705 MWh by 2015).
In 2012 the company was seeking proposals for renewable resources other than wind or solar as part of its plan to diversify Southwestern Public Service Company renewable energy portfolio.
As the largest US utility wind energy provider, Xcel controlled some 3,500 MW of wind energy in its portfolio in 2011 and plans to have 7,400 MW by 2020. In 2011 Xcel bought the 200 MW Limon Wind Energy Center, which will have 125 turbines in Lincoln and Elbert counties on Colorado's Front Range east of Denver. The company is also the US's fifth-largest utility solar energy provider and owns the fourth-largest transmission system. In addition, Xcel operates more than 25 hydroelectric power plants in Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The company believes its strategy of making environmentally sound investments is pivotal to its success. Among its 2010 projects were launching its 800-MW coal-fired unit in Colorado, known as Comanche 3, after installing advanced emission-reduction equipment. It also began construction of its CapX2020 project, a joint venture transmission expansion project with 10 other utilities, scheduled for completion by 2020. The project includes a 240-mile transmission line from Minnesota to North Dakota. The company has filed to extend the licensing plants of its two nuclear plants on Prairie Island in Minnesota for 20 years, which it expects to save customers more than $1 billion compared to alternative sources.
Xcel plans to construct one of the largest biomass generating plants in the Midwest. The facility, proposed for the Bay Front Generating Station in Ashland, Wisconsin, will generate power from burning wood waste in all three operating units by 2014. In 2011 Xcel had 73 MW of biomass generating power in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Xcel is also working to develop so-called "smart grid" technology, which will provide customers with more reliability and control over their energy use. It has completed the nation's first fully integrated SmartGridCity in Boulder, Colorado.
In 2010 Xcel acquired two gas-fired power plants from Calpine Corporation for $739 million. The two Denver-area plants have a generating capacity of more than 900 MW and were already providing power to Public Service Company of Colorado under a contract agreement. The company is planning to acquire 775 MW of new wind-power capacity for its Colorado system over the next several years. – less