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Utility aims for zero carbon emissions from electric power

DENVER (AP) — A utility serving 3.6 million electricity customers in Wisconsin and seven other states said on Tuesday it will try to eliminate all its carbon emissions from electrical generation by 2050.

Ben Fowke, CEO of Minnesota-based Xcel Energy, acknowledged that not all the technology the company needs to meet that goal can be had yet at a commercial scale, but he said he feels encouraged by recent advances in clean energy technology.

“If we put our minds to it,” Fowke said, “we will find the best solution to get us there.”

He told the Colorado Sun the company’s goal comes in response to fears about climate change.

“This risk of climate change isn’t going away and we want to be the company that does something about it and hopefully inspire others to do something about it too,” he said.

Xcel has been increasing its use of solar and wind power but said reaching a point where it has no carbon emissions could require it to continue operating its nuclear power plants and using carbon-sequestration technology.

Carbon sequestration would capture emissions of carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and keep them out of the atmosphere.

Xcel has two nuclear power plants in Minnesota, near the towns of Monticello and Red Wing. Besides Wisconsin, the company has customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

Xcel also supplies natural gas to 2 million customers in its service area. Their service won’t be affected, said Michelle Aguayo, a company spokeswoman.

Xcel said it has already reduced its carbon emissions by 35 percent since 2005. It has set an interim goal of trimming those emissions by 80 percent by 2030.

In Colorado, Xcel is already planning to retire two coal-fired electrical generating stations about a decade early and increase its use of solar, wind and natural-gas generation. The company has said that, because renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper, the change should save consumers about $213 million by 2054.

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