Colorado Public Works Journal, Spring 2024

SPRING 2024┃51 INDUSTRY INSIGHTS feature by Sean O’Keefe A lawyer by training and an energy executive by trade, Robert Kenney, President of Xcel Energy Colorado, has a passion for purpose and finds his calling in service to others. He took the reigns as President of Xcel’s Colorado division in June 2022 after a distinguished career working to shape energy law and public policy on a variety of levels. “In Colorado, Xcel Energy serves 1.6 million electric customers and 1.5 million gas customers,” begins Kenney. Including Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin, Colorado is the largest customer base of any state in Xcel Energy’s eight-state region. Providing the energy that powers homes and businesses across much of the state, including the entire Front Range, is no small task. It’s all made harder by the urgent need to complete the transition to exclusively clean energy. “Colorado has a long-standing commitment to being leaders in the transition to clean energy, and Xcel intends to do our part to fulfill that mission,” says Kenney. “We are well on our way to being carbon-free by 2050. We are engaging a very intentional plan to reach net zero emissions while maintaining system safety and recognizing the economic impact we have in the communities where we serve. Xcel Energy Colorado is privileged to provide thousands of good-paying jobs. We are one of the largest payers of property tax in Colorado, and we invested $448 million with local suppliers last year. $137 million of which went to diverse suppliers, I am proud to add.” In contributing to economic growth, Kenney and thousands of other Xcel Energy employees also understand the importance of civic responsibilities. “In 2023, Xcel Energy Colorado’s Foundation donated almost $1.3 million to 87 local charities. 1,176 employees contributed 3,215 hours of volunteer service generating an economic impact of $102,237,” continues Kenney. “So, civic engagement in the communities we serve is ingrained in the fabric of the company.” As Colorado continues to lead the nationwide transition from coalfired power plants to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric, Xcel Energy maintains a mandate that puts people ahead of profits regardless of greater intent. “As many know, we are in the process of retiring coal-fired power plants across the state. However, we understand those are good paying jobs, so before even proposing to decommission any of them, we began working with community leaders to figure out how to account for that loss of revenue and those jobs,” shares Kenney. “In Pueblo, where we are retiring a plant, we have agreed to pay the City of Pueblo and Pueblo County the lost revenue for ten years. Furthermore, we will attempt to locate a similar amount of new power generation in Pueblo County to replace those jobs.” A key component to completing the transition from coal and carbon to clean and green is transmission. The Colorado Power Pathway project (see feature story on page X) is in progress. This 550-mile double-circuit transmission line stretching from Pueblo to Fort Morgan will be the backbone of Colorado’s new energy economy. This $1.7 billion investment will accommodate private interest in renewables along Colorado’s underleveraged eastern frontier while increasing grid reliability at load centers along the Front Range. Asked what the industry might want to know about working with Xcel Energy Colorado, Kenney is effusive about the opportunities, especially for small and diverse enterprises. “Xcel Energy Colorado’s supply chain department is working with enterprises of all sorts to help them understand what they need to do business with us,” says Kenney. “We also work with small and diverse businesses who may not have access to capital or highly specialized knowledge. We host a quarterly webinar for diverse suppliers where they can register to work with us, develop a capabilities statement of their core competencies, and get more information about our partnership requirements in areas like safety, cybersecurity, and insurance.” As for the public, Kenney believes homeowners and ratepayers ought to have equal and abundant access to good information. Xcel Energy Colorado has developed a plan to meet people where they are. “We launched a RED Truck program, which stands for Resources, Education, Delivered to get out into communities to help connect customers to energy resource assistance,” Kenney says. “Last year, we attended more than 30 events and had some 1,400 engagements with individuals interested in knowing more about their energy use.” Asked about recent victories, Kenney is excited to share that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently approved Xcel Energy Colorado’s new clean energy plan. “We recently were approved to move forward with 6,100 megawatts of new clean energy generation, adding to Colorado’s largest portfolio of clean energy,” Kenney shares. “Combining wind, solar, and new, long-duration iron-air battery storage, this represents a $12 billion investment in more lowcost clean energy that takes advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This will mean more clean power, more green energy jobs, and more property tax revenue for Colorado communities.” For Kenney and his thousands of hardworking colleagues at Xcel Energy Colorado, the thrill of the work is in the challenge. Together, they thrive by balancing many competing interests. They are working hard to decarbonize the electric system while keeping ratepayer bills affordable. “What I love most about my job is the meaningful, consequential nature of what we do. I am very purpose-driven,” finishes Kenney. “At Xcel Energy Colorado, we have a chance to leave the world a better place than we found it. And we will.” Robert Kenney l President, Xcel Energy Colorado