Xcel Energy to disclose emissions details


by Maria Surma Manka, Maria Energia • September 3, 2008 •
In an agreement with New York’s attorney general, Xcel Energy – one of the nation’s largest electric utilities and my own – will now give investors details about how global warming could effect business. (Full disclosure: I’m an Xcel shareholder)

This all started last year, when Attorney General Cuomo subpoenaed Xcel and four other companies to determine whether their plans to build new coal plants poised risks to investors that the companies didn’t disclose. For example, more coal plants could put the utility at higher financial risk if Congress were to enact carbon legislation that penalized companies with dirty energy sources.

Under this first-of-its-kind agreement, Xcel will analyze the most likely consequences of current and potential future legislation on its business. It will also include any financial risks due to lawsuits and global warming effects like drought or rising sea levels. It will publish this information in its investor filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Justin McCann, an energy analyst at Standard & Poor’s, told the New York Times that other companies may follow suit:

Utility lobbies are very strong, but they have read the writing on the wall in terms of greenhouse gas reductions. They know it is extremely popular with the public, and so they have wanted to get ahead of the curve, so they can have some input.

Xcel is building a new coal plant in Colorado, its first in the state in 30 years. It doesn’t have any plans for any new plants in Minnesota, although it does want to expand its Sherco plant by 140 megawatts. Late last year Xcel announced a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions – a major source of global warming – 22 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.