|  Mar 16, 2017

Public Utilities Commission Advances Cost Effective, Clean Energy for Minnesotans

More wind, solar and energy savings on the way for Otter Tail Power Customers

Saint Paul, MINN. (March 16, 2017) – Today, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to approve a modified version of Otter Tail Power Company’s (Otter Tail) 15-year resource plan that includes significant investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy (wind and solar power). The PUC’s decision draws on advocacy in the proceeding by Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Fresh Energy, Sierra Club and Wind on the Wires, who argued that Otter Tail’s plan had limited clean energy investments despite clear benefits to customers. The PUC’s decision affirms that additional clean energy investments are a good bet for customers. Otter Tail’s resource plan as approved by the PUC includes:

  • Confirmed retirement of the coal-fired Hoot Lake power plant by 2021
  • The addition of up to 400 megawatts (MW) of wind energy by 2023 (200 MW more than originally proposed by Otter Tail)
  • The addition of up to  30 MW of solar energy by 2020
  • Energy efficiency savings targets equivalent to 1.6% annual energy savings

The Commission also approved up to 250 MW of peaking capacity in 2021, which Otter Tail Power plans to meet with a new natural gas plant, despite strong arguments during today’s hearing that Otter Tail had not adequately demonstrated that a gas plant is in the public interest. The gas plant is proposed to be built in either North or South Dakota--Otter Tail has not publicly revealed the location other than the fact that it will not be in Minnesota.

In response to the PUC decision, the Clean Energy Organizations released the following statements:

“We are pleased with the PUC’s decision to include additional clean energy in Otter Tail’s plan, which is something we’ve advocated for in this proceeding over the past 10 months, but we remain disappointed in the relatively shallow analysis of clean energy alternatives to Otter Tail’s proposed natural gas plant.” said Leigh Currie, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy attorney representing Wind on the Wires, Sierra Club, and Fresh Energy. “Overall, however, this is a big win for Otter Tail’s customers and confirms that clean energy is the best choice.”

“We applaud Otter Tail Power Company for its commitment to adding clean energy resources to their system. The additional wind and solar resources will provide benefits to both Otter Tail’s customers and the communities that host the new projects. The company is a leader in the level of renewables it has on its system, given its total resource needs,” said Beth Soholt, Executive Director, Wind on the Wires.

“In the next few years, Otter Tail will be replacing its remaining Minnesota coal units with investments including greater energy savings for their customers, as well as wind and solar development that benefits communities in western Minnesota,” said J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy.

“Today’s market has created tremendous opportunities for affordable and reliable clean energy, and Otter Tail Power customers will see significant benefits from the added wind, solar and energy efficiency.” said Jessica Tritsch, Senior Organizer, Sierra Club. “We are disappointed in Otter Tail Power’s plan to build a new natural gas facility. Fossil fuels are costly to our health, air, water and climate and expensive investment for customers."

Otter Tail Power Company’s next 15 year plan is due on June 3, 2019.