RPU Plans to Use 100% Renewable Energy

July 23, 2019 10:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Rochester Public Utilities Board calls it a "monumental day". 

RPU is moving toward 100% renewable energy. On Tuesday, the board looked at different ways to make that happen and in the end, settled on two of the five scenarios presented.


The first option looks at providing energy through a combination of wind and solar. This plan also involves a combustion turbine as an emergency backup for when the wind isn't blowing and the sun's not out.

The second option is similar, except it's fossil-free. Instead of burning natural gas to fill in the gaps, energy would be stored in batteries.

The manager of Utility Consulting says the presentation was a product of six months of work, adding it’s also a first.

“We haven't had any other clients set that robust of a goal,” said Mike Borgstadt. “Certainly, with the concern of greenhouse gasses and its impact on the environment, the less greenhouse gasses you can put out, the better.”

Right now, RPU purchases its power from the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA). That contract is legally-binding and expires in 2030.

RPU Board President Brian Morgan says annually, about 50% of RPU's energy comes from coal, 25% comes from gas and, in the best-case scenario, 25% is renewable.

We asked what going toward 100% renewable could mean for the more-than 50,000 customers.

“To go to 100% renewable might carry as little as a 1% cost differential,” said Morgan. “The number $1.50 a month was thrown out for the average customer, and we think that's a win because we see that just sticking with the current scenario. We have had rate increases in excess of that in the past already.”

Morgan says they hope to have staff move ahead with the planning process in 2020, with the goal of breaking ground on one of the plans in 2025.

RPU board members did point out renewable energy does not mean "free of impact." There is an environmental impact when you install solar and wind farms and build combustion turbines and lithium batteries.

The next step is to bring these plans to Rochester City Council.


Hannah Tiede

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