When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the private sector is playing a bigger role than ever before, and that goes for some energy providers, too. Among them is Xcel Energy, the first major U.S. utility to pledge to go entirely carbon-free.

In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless sits down with Ben Fowke, the chairman, President and CEO of Xcel Energy, which in December announced a bold commitment to provide 100% carbon-free electricity to its customers by 2050. Not only that, but Xcel also set a goal of cutting the company’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Since then, other utilities have also unveiled major carbon-cutting initiatives. Among them Idaho Power and Public Service Company of New Mexico, with goals of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045 and 2040, respectively.

Ben doesn’t pretend that achieving Xcel Energy’s goals will be easy and he tells Bill why. Nevertheless, he’s confident that the Minneapolis-based company, with 3.6 million customers in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and four other states, is off to a good start.

Bill caught up with Ben while he was in Washington to testify on energy storage before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They talked about his company’s ambitious carbon agenda, including its growing reliance on renewable energy and its movement away from coal for electric generation.

They also discussed the role that natural gas and nuclear energy will play in Xcel’s resource plans and the challenges of finding the technologies necessary to make carbon-free electricity a reality for Xcel and other utilities.  

Not surprisingly, the Green New Deal came up in their talk as did proposals for a carbon tax and other options for policymakers to consider in addressing climate change.