CUB files to intervene in Minnesota Power’s Integrated Resource Plan

Published July 6, 2021

Minnesota Power, the electric utility serving much of northeastern Minnesota, filed its latest Integrated Resource Plan (“IRP”) in February 2021. CUB continues to participate in the review process and intends to file comments on the IRP this fall.

An IRP is a roadmap that public utilities use to analyze and model various strategies for meeting electricity demand over the next 15 year time horizon. Ideally, the IRP planning process allows utilities to publicly identify, with input and comments from interested stakeholders, the strategy that allows the utility to meet those demands in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. Nearly six years have passed since Minnesota Power’s latest IRP was approved. A lot has changed in that time, making this latest IRP filing particularly important.

Minnesota Power is fairly unique among public utilities in that its customer base includes a relatively high concentration of large, industrial customers — such as paper mills and taconite mines — and a comparatively low proportion of residential and commercial customers. Minnesota Power has also announced a commitment to delivering 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050. In combination, this creates interesting challenges and opportunities for the utility and stakeholders interested in participating in this docket. Those challenges include navigating Minnesota Power’s decision to retire the Boswell Energy Center, Minnesota Power’s only remaining coal plant, by 2035. Though many environmental and consumer advocates (including CUB) support this decision, we are also sensitive to the economic challenges this brings to the town of Cohasset and surrounding communities, as the Boswell plant has long been a large employer and source of tax revenue in that area of the state.

CUB recently submitted a “petition to intervene” in Minnesota Power’s IRP docket. In short, this means we have formally expressed our intention to review and comment upon the IRP.  This is to help ensure that Minnesota Power delivers energy as cost-effectively as reasonably possible as it plans for the next 15 years. We intend to focus our comments upon such issues as:

  • Planning surrounding the retirement of the Boswell Energy Center;
  • Increasing viability of advanced generation and grid technology;
  • Minnesota Power’s demand response and load forecast options; and
  • Beneficial electrification;

This list is preliminary — we may discover additional issues that we will wish to address through further examination and investigation.

CUB will be working with outside consultants at GridLab and Strategen Consulting to file comments on the IRP. GridLab is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide technical grid expertise to enhance policy decision-making and to ensure a rapid transition to a reliable, cost effective, and low carbon future. Strategen provides technical and economic analysis, among other expertise, to government, industry, NGO, and utility clients to help them advance clean energy and fairness in utility cost allocation and program design. CUB has partnered often with both organizations, and we are glad to again benefit from their expertise.

You, too, can review and comment on Minnesota Power’s IRP. The IRP, and all its various attachments, is available on the Minnesota Power website. You can also find it, along with filings made by other parties in the IRP docket, on the Public Utilities Commission website by searching for Docket Number 21-33 here. If you wish to file your own comments on the IRP, you can do so in the following ways:

  1. Email your comments to consumer.puc@state.mn.us. Please make sure you include the docket number and the name of the utility who’s IRP you wish to comment on.
  2. Use SpeakUp! on the Commission’s website – click on “Open Discussions” to search for the correct docket.
  3. Using the Commission’s eFiling system – www.mn.gov/puc, select eFiling, and follow the prompts to create an account to file comments.
  4. Mail your comments to Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Finally, keep an eye on the CUB blog for additional updates on our intervention in this process!

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Author: Brian Edstrom

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