By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — How long will the scientific debate over the causes of global climate change persist?

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy says it has heard enough and it is clearly time to act. The utility which provides electricity to customers of eight Midwestern and Western states is taking a leading role in reducing carbon emissions.

At an announcement on Tuesday in Denver, Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said, “it’s important for us to act now. Our communities and our customers want us to.”

Fowke is committing the Xcel to eliminating all carbon emissions by 2050. He says the goal is important not only for protection of the environment, but also makes good economic sense for customers and Xcel shareholders.

“We’re now buying renewables today that are 70 and 80 percent less expensive than they were 10 years ago. And because of that, they compete directly with the cost of fossil fuels,” explained Fowke.

The first 80 percent reduction should be accomplished by 2030 using presently proven and cost effective technologies.

Attaining the remaining 20 percent reduction will largely depend on still to be developed technologies – things like battery storage and carbon sequestration technologies.

Over the past 20 years, Xcel has been an industry leader by investing in renewables like wind, nuclear and solar.

In the past twelve years it has cut the utility’s carbon emissions from coal and gas plants by 35 percent.

“In five short years across all eight states we serve, renewable energy will be the biggest source of energy that we have,” said Fowke.

That will mean retiring currently operating gas and coal fired generating plants, as well as investing in upgrades to extend the lives of certain nuclear facilities.

“Let’s do something about global climate change was the message from Xcel’s announcement yesterday,” said the executive director of Fresh Energy, Michael Noble.

Noble’s renewable electricity advocacy group believes Xcel is paving the way for other utilities to act as well.

“This is the most economical way to deliver energy. It’s good for the environment,” explained Noble. “This is going to create innovation and jobs. Let’s get all the carbon pollution out of the electric company now.”

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