Longtime industry leader Pete Gardner as been selected as Xcel Energy’s chief nuclear officer.
Minneapolis-based Xcel’s board of directors approved Gardner to succeed Tim O’Connor, who has been promoted to chief generating officer effective March 31. O’Connor has headed Xcel’s nuclear operations since 2013.
The two have worked together since Gardner joined the utility in 2013. He has been vice president of nuclear operations since 2017 and has more than 36 years’ experience in the sector.
“Pete has played an integral role in elevating the performance of our nuclear fleet to the best in the country,” said O’Connor. “Not only have we reduced operations and maintenance costs by 25 percent in just four years, but both Monticello and Prairie Island have earned the highest ratings from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.”
Xcel has touted the performance of its nuclear fleet as a key factor in the company cutting carbon emissions 10 percent in 2019. It was the largest single-year drop in emissions since Xcel commenced its clean energy transmission in 2005.
Xcel’s nuclear portfolio supplies 30 percent of the power delivered to utility customers in the upper Midwest, according the company. The utility owns two plants: Monticello (pictured) and Prairie Island, both in Minnesota.
Nuclear energy generates 19 percent of the overall U.S. electricity mix and more than half of the carbon-free output.