Energy grid instability has increasingly become a concern for Minnesota residents in the past several months, prompting the Center of the American Experiment (CAE) to launch their S.O.S. - Save Our Sherco - campaign.
Recently, many area residents have secured their yard signs and are working to bring attention to the matter in an effort to sway both Xcel Energy and the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reconsider their plans for the closure of all three coal-fired plants at Sherco within the next several years.
“This spring, the regional electric grid to which Minnesota belongs, the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) announced that there was not enough reliable power plants on the grid to meet our expected peak demand, plus a margin of safety,” says CAE Energy and Environmental Policy Fellow Isaac Orr. “This problem will only get worse if Xcel Energy closes Unit 2 at Sherco next year. We are in a reliability hole, and the first thing we need to do is stop digging.”
In addition to the yard sign campaign, the CAE has also launched a website, SaveOurSherco.com, that allows people to send emails to Xcel and the PUC asking for their reconsideration.
Orr reports that in the opening days of the campaign, hundreds of petitioners have signed on to the cause and with Facebook ads launching early this past week, that number is expected to grow quickly.
Despite MISO’s warnings about running out of electricity, there has been little movement in the state to remedy the situation with a postponement of the coal plant retirement.
However, a coal-fired plant in Missouri recently did just that, postponing plans for at least several years to shut down a power plant over concerns of grid reliability.
Orr notes that in other states and countries, authorities are scaling back their renewable energy plans because of the projected electrical shortcomings.
“Germany is restarting coal plants is a desperate attempt to lessen their dependency on Russian gas and two coal plants in Wisconsin will delay their retirements due to the capacity shortfall,” Orr says.
Locally, Becker Twp. resident Matt Marquette shared his concerns with the Patriot and stated his reasons for securing their S.O.S. signs.
“I am not an expert in power generation . . . however, I do see what is going on in Europe and California right now - they have made a pledge to ‘go green’ and they are experiencing an energy crisis that is unprecedented with experts saying it is going to get worse,” says Marquette. “Many Europeans are having to choose between heating or eating. I do believe that most people, including myself, are for ‘cleaner energy’ but aren’t willing to starve for it.”
Marquette says that he has witnessed firsthand what the Sherco plants have meant for the Becker community, including the many jobs they provide. He feels that the entire issue needs more study and testing to ensure reliability for the electrical grid.
“Do we have the infrastructure as a nation to support sending solar power from Arizona to Maine and then wind power from Montana to Florida,” Marquette wonders. “Everything that I have researched says that we aren’t even close. My vote is to keep the Sherco plants running full steam ahead until we have a reasonable and realistic resolution to these issues.”
According to Orr, plans are in the works for a local pickup option for people wanting to pick up their sign if they are interested. In the meantime, he suggests people visit the website to hear more information.
In terms of whether or not it’s too late to save Sherco, Orr says there is still time.
“It can be done, it’s a matter of whether Xcel will do what it needs to do to keep the lights on,” he says.