|Fig. 1: Xcel Energy Truck. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
All it takes is a power outage to remember the extraordinary impact that energy has on people today. The economy, along with every individual's daily routines, would be dramatically altered if all forms of energy were stopped for a single hour, let alone a single day. Most people understand that energy can come from varying sources such as natural gas, oil, coal, or renewable sources like solar or wind. However, it is often taken for granted how this energy is transported from the source into each home and business. With this in mind, I will look into the business operations of the supplier of energy to my childhood home: Xcel Energy.
Xcel Energy is an electricity and natural gas supplier located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company brings in over $11 billion in revenue each year, and provides over 5.5 million customers with energy to power their homes. Xcel has operations in eight states through its four sub-divisions: Southwestern Public Service Company, Public Service Company of Colorado, Northern States Power- Minnesota, and Northern States Power- Wisconsin. The company was founded in 1998, but the smaller companies that make up Xcel Energy have been around since the early 1900s. 
Xcel Energy provides energy to homes through both natural gas and electricity. The natural gas is purchased from producers and vendors, and then transported through pipelines to Xcel's distribution stations. The four main gas areas that their natural gas is bought from are the Rocky Mountain Basin, the Anadarko Arkoma Basin in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, and the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico. 
The electricity is produced in various generating plants that use a wide range of fuel sources such as coal, water, oil, wind, and the sun. Xcel Energy's facilities are able to create around two-thirds of all the power they need, and the rest is purchased from other vendors. They are able to do this because they own more than 70 generating plants located throughout the United States. The largest source of the electricity that Xcel creates comes from coal, which is then followed by natural gas and wind. 
|Fig. 2: Transmission Lines. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Natural gas and electricity are delivered to homes or businesses in two opposite ways. Natural gas is delivered through pipes, which connect the customers' homes to the distribution lines. Xcel Energy uses more than 36,000 miles of pipeline to accomplish this task.
The electricity is delivered through transmission lines that are commonly seen overhead while driving. Xcel Energy currently owns nearly 20,000 of transmission lines, which span over ten states. These transmission lines are able to bring electricity to consumers' homes through an overhead electrical line called the service drop. Both of these delivery forms serve to provide homes and business with the energy they need to function. 
An area that environmentalists and doctors wish to see Xcel improve in is to lower its dependence on coal. As seen in a study by four physicians labeled "Coal's Assault on Human Health", there are detrimental health effects associated with every step with coal from mining until disposal. Studies have found that it contributes to health risks such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.  Similarly, coal has been seen as a dirty energy source that negatively adds to global warming. With this in mind, Xcel Energy has plans to begin closing down some of its coal plants.
Providing energy will continue to be a profitable and intriguing business, as the need for energy will not go away in the near future. Xcel Energy provides the energy that powers the lives of more than 5 million customers and appears prepared to continue to succeed in the near future.
© Patrick McFadden. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "Xcel Energy 2014 Annual Report," Xcel Energy, 2014
 A. Lockwood et al., "Coal's Assault on Human Health," Physicians for Social Responsibility, November 2009.