Posted by Jenifer Loon

Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy - Our Carbon Free Vision

John Crudele introduced Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy to the club. Xcel Energy serves over 4 million customers in 8 states and is one of the industries’ leading authorities on clean energy. Some of Xcel’s top priorities include reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by the year 2030, hiring veterans, and enhancing cyber security.
Ben began his presentation by showing the club a short video entitled, “Our Carbon Free Vision.” He noted that Xcel has reduced their carbon emissions by 38 percent since 2005.
Their current goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in 2030 and to be 100% carbon free by the year 2050, all while providing affordable and reliable energy for their customers. Fowke said the technology currently exists to reach the 80 percent reduction goal. New technologies and use of nuclear power will be necessary to reach the zero carbon emissions goal for 2050. Addressing the skepticism some still have about global warming, Ben said taking action to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions is an insurance policy should scientists be right about the dangers of global warming.
New technologies are driving the prices of renewable energy sources lower, and investors are seeing the benefits and importance of using it. Quite simply, Fowke stated, “We should do it, we can do it, and our customers expect it.” Xcel’s Upper Midwest resource plan is to exit the use of coal by 2030 and add 3-4 GW of renewables by the late 2020’s. They also want to extend the life of the Monticello plan, as nuclear power is an important part of their vision for the future. Adding the use of natural gas and energy storage for back-up to ensure energy reliability is also part of their plan, although Ben acknowledged some of these items will be controversial.
Minnesota’s energy bills are approximately 20% less than the national average, according to Fowke. He said that at 60% renewable use, further saturating the grid becomes very expensive. New technologies for carbon capture are showing promise, but we need to start investing now in more research and take a pragmatic approach. Public policy needs to stop “falling in love with the shiny objects” and let the market work. Today, transportation emits most of the carbon in the atmosphere, and using electric cars can reduce carbon by 70%. However, transitions are hard, and Fowke described the work Xcel has done with the Becker community to ease the job loss of closing the coal plant and transitioning it to natural gas.
In addressing member questions, Ben discussed Xcel’s biggest challenge which is keeping energy reliable and affordable as they reduce carbon. Renewables do not create grid stability or “dispatchable generation.” Nuclear power will need to be significantly ramped up if they are to reach their carbon free goal and have grid stability. Ben stated that environmental groups are beginning to get more comfortable with nuclear power. Xcel is partnering with others to drive research into new technologies that will lead the clean energy transition, enhance the customer experience and help keep bills affordable.


  • Next Tuesday’s meeting, August 20 th , is at Grace Church for a service project to prepare backpacks of school supplies for needy children in our community. Members should enter at Door 4 at Grace Church.
  • Adventure Day for Scouting was held August 18 th at Round Lake Park from 3-8 p.m.
  • Clementine, our new Rotary Youth Exchange student from Belgium and her host dad (Todd Bohlig from the Noon Club) were in attendance at our meeting.

Happy Fines

  • Kevin Kraemer and family had a great week at the Carver County Fair, were his daughter took Grand Champion prize. Congrats!
  • Josh Swanson welcomed 80 new teachers to the staff of Eden Prairie Schools this week and got a peak at students rehearing for the Trajectories show that occurs during the first week of school at EPHS.
  • PG Narayanan highlighted the great attendance at PeopleFest, noting it was “sold out.”
  • Irene Kelly shared a cute story about an adventure she and her grandson had after hopping on a trolley after enjoying Rotary Day at Canterbury Park. Assuming they were being driven to the parking lot, instead they ended up at Mystic Lake Casino.
  • Dan O’Brien and grandkids enjoyed the Carver County Fair. He also announced for his daughter that the Minnetonka before and after school Explorers program is looking to fill positions.


Todd Bollig - Rotarian
John Carraux - Guest of John Crudele
Mike Crabtree - Guest of Matt Crane
Sohan Das - Guest of Dennis Kim
Steve Hansen - Guest of Dennis Kim
Dawn Hendricksen - Prospective Member
Russ Hendricksen - Prospective Member
Jack Jiang - Prospective Member
Steve Johnson - Guest of Patrick Donohue
Kayle Keddie - Student Intern
Jack Kuehn - Rotarian
Machel Margata - Rotarian
Sam Schuster - Prospective Member
Loren Swanson - Rotarian
Michelle Swanson - Guest of Speaker
Clementine - RYE Student
Derck Wolden - Guest of Speaker