Briefline

Xcel Energy broadens net-zero climate pledge to include natural gas

By: - November 1, 2021 11:20 am

Fossil fuel extraction infrastructure is pictured northeast of Longmont, Colo., on June 24, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado’s largest electric utility announced on Monday that it plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its natural gas business by 2050, broadening its previous commitment to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by the same date.

Xcel Energy, which operates in eight states and serves about 1.6 million customers in Colorado, said in a press release that it is “committing to becoming an overall net-zero energy company by 2050, while keeping service reliable and customer bills low.”

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Xcel became one of the first large utility companies to announce a 100% clean-electricity goal in 2018, and has pledged to cut electricity emissions by 80% or more by 2030 — a major boost for Colorado policymakers aiming to cut statewide emissions in half by that date, as required by a 2019 climate law.

The company’s broadened commitment will target emissions from the natural gas side of its business. More than two-thirds of homes in Colorado still use natural gas as their primary heating and cooking fuel, significantly higher than the national average.

“This exciting new commitment by Xcel Energy represents a major step forward that will support Colorado in achieving our state’s climate goals and illustrates how Colorado is encouraging the innovation and collaboration needed to foster a clean economy,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Xcel Energy’s aggressive, forward looking plans for clean energy are welcomed news.”

In the short term, Xcel aims to cut natural gas emissions 25% by 2030, largely through efforts to reduce methane leaks and by purchasing gas “only from suppliers with certified low emissions,” it said. Its release contained few specifics on how it planned to achieve its net-zero goal in the long term, though it did mention programs to “encourage the use of electric appliances and low carbon gas alternatives, including hydrogen and renewable natural gas.”

The utility’s announcement comes as leaders from around the world gather in Glasgow for a critical U.N. climate summit known as COP26. U.N. Secretary General began the conference on Monday with a stark warning that “our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink.”

Xcel’s net-zero-by-2050 pledge is one of the most ambitious announced by a U.S. utility to date, but still falls short of what many scientists, policymakers and advocates say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In 2018, Polis campaigned on a promise to put Colorado on a path to 100% clean electricity by 2040, while President Joe Biden has set a nationwide target of a net-zero power sector by 2035.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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