Environment Minnesota Director's Testimony on Nuclear Rider Bill

SF3504 Could Shift $1.4 Billion in Costs to Xcel Customers
For Immediate Release

Senator David J. Osmek
Chair, Committee on Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy
1150 Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue West St. Paul, MN 55155-1606

Re: A bill for an act relating to energy; establishing a carbon reduction facility designation for certain large electric generating facilities; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 216B

Chair Osmek and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Tim Schaefer and I am the Director of Environment Minnesota, a citizen-funded non-profit advocacy organization with over 7,000 active members around the state. We fight to protect Minnesota’s special places and its natural resources, but also its people.

Good energy policy makes utilities properly weigh costs, not endlessly offload them on customers. Good energy policy incentivizes truly renewable sources like wind and solar, sources that don’t carry catastrophic risks, don’t require exhorbitant insurance, and don’t need centuries-long waste management plans. Wind and solar are getting cheaper every day, while nuclear power becomes a bigger and bigger burden to the state.

SF 3504 is a terrible deal for Xcel customers and a huge step backwards for clean energy in Minnesota. Monticello and Prairie Island have clear records of cost overruns --over $400 million at Monticello alone in 2015. That may have taken a dent out of Xcel’s profits, but it shouldn’t be a problem for Xcel customers.

Financing nuclear plant costs with an uncapped rider that most customers will never even look at is terrible energy policy. Attaching that rider without any Public Utilities Commission oversight is inexcusable, especially when it provides no real security to the plant workers and communities that will still depend on Monticello and Prairie Island for a few more years.

I’ve brought along a copy of my Xcel energy bill --right now, the charges are broken into eleven different charges and fees. I know I almost never look at this breakdown, and this is my job. Will the average Xcel customer ever look at it? Will they be able to distinguish between this rider and a “fuel cost charge” or a “resource adjustment?” Will they ever know that they’re paying even more to keep old nuclear plants open, directly financing better returns for Xcel’s shareholders?

I want the committee members to ask themselves before they vote: is this fair to Minnesotans? Is this fair to the thousands who live paycheck to paycheck and who already struggle to pay bills like this? If the answer is no, please vote to reject this deeply unfair bill.

Director Tim Schaefer, Environment Minnesota