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More than a decade of counting (and reducing) greenhouse gas emissions

Why establishing a baseline is critical for reducing greenhouse gases

By: | October 30, 2015 5:18 pm

When Xcel Energy committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions more than a decade ago, we knew it wouldn’t be easy for a number of reasons. For starters, reducing emissions requires that you measure and establish a baseline before you can set a goal and then measure your progress toward meeting it. Back then, an official reporting standard or protocol for measuring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions was just beginning to evolve for our industry.

Unlike air emissions that can be measured at the source, measuring carbon dioxide is more complicated. Yes, you can measure it at the power plant stack with monitoring equipment, just like other air emissions. But, what about the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the electricity we purchase? Or from electricity lost during transmission and distribution? And what about employee travel? If we truly wanted to measure our impact, we needed to consider and count emissions from all sources.

Xcel Energy became a founding member of The Climate Registry, a nonprofit organization that designs and operates voluntary and compliance-related greenhouse gas reporting programs throughout North America, in 2007. Our intent was to collaborate with others to establish consistent, transparent standards for calculating, verifying and publicly reporting all greenhouse gas emissions into this single registry for North America.

We helped The Climate Registry develop its best-in-class Electric Power Sector Protocol that’s now widely accepted and used within our industry. Today, we use the protocol to report all of our greenhouse gas emissions annually, including carbon dioxide, which is our most significant by volume, making up more than 99 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

This year Xcel Energy reached a significant milestone with The Climate Registry by achieving “Climate Registered™” status for successfully measuring and reporting our emissions from 2005 to 2011. The emissions we’ve reported are third-party verified and comprehensive, including direct emissions from our power plants and indirect emissions from the electricity we purchase. This means that when you hear us talk about achieving emission reductions of more than 20 percent since 2005—it is verified, documented and real. If you are a large customer that uses our emissions information for your own greenhouse gas reporting, you are assured that our information is solid.

We’re continuing to work with The Climate Registry to verify and register emissions for 2012 to 2014, which should be done soon. While our reporting under The Climate Registry began as a voluntary effort, we now report greenhouse gas emissions under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mandatory Reporting Rule. We also publish these emissions in an annual CO2 worksheet, our Corporate Responsibility Report and through the Carbon Disclosure Project. All of these reporting efforts take a slightly different approach, but all are based on the data we report to The Climate Registry and all are part of showing progress toward Xcel Energy’s projected, companywide 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels.


Tracking Xcel Energy’s corporate responsibility and all things environmental. An advocate for transparency and sharing information about energy, the environment and a more sustainable energy future.

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