UTILITIES: In its rate case filed this week, Xcel Energy proposes to decouple its revenue from electricity sales in Minnesota, a process that would “fundamentally change the nature of the business” by removing disincentives to cut energy use. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: Underscoring the challenges that utilities face, a top power executive tells a conference in Houston that “the industry is falling apart.” (Reuters)

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SOLAR: Iowa will receive $1 million from the Department of Energy to promote solar power in the state, and a North Dakota cooperative begins to explore net metering: “this is what the rest of the country is talking about.” (Des Moines Register, Bismarck Tribune)

WIND: MidAmerican begins work on $1.9 billion worth of new Iowa wind farms, and Basin Electric agrees to buy power from two North Dakota wind farms. (Des Moines Register, Associated Press)

EXELON: Financial reports show Chicago-based Exelon will earn as much as $100 million from the wind tax credit it sees as a threat to its nuclear operations; meanwhile, a new report says Exelon is in the best position among U.S. utilities to profit from its existing nuclear fleet. (Greenwire, Forbes)

EPA: At a hearing today, an economist will call for allowing a state-level carbon tax as an option to meet EPA carbon limits for existing power plants; and senators from Nebraska and North Dakota want “listening sessions” on climate rules to be held in their states. (The Hill, Omaha World-Herald, Grand Forks Herald)

COAL: Activists who want to shut down coal plants face an uphill battle in Indiana. (Indianapolis Star)

OIL: Exxon may be fined $2.6 million for failing to promptly report an Arkansas pipeline spill, TransCanada says the lengthy Keystone XL approval process is likely to become the new normal for cross-border pipeline projects, and North Dakota launches a new assessment of its oil and gas industry. (The Hill, Grand Forks Herald)

WATER: A new report says water shortages are a growing threat to energy production in the U.S. and elsewhere. (Wall Street Journal)

***SPONSORED LINK: Clean Energy Trust seeks the Midwest’s best researchers, entrepreneurs and students with innovative ideas. Apply now for the $500,000 2014 Clean Energy Challenge. Applications due: Jan 8. Final pitch in Chicago: April 3. ***

EFFICIENCY: Milwaukee is halfway to its goal of cutting energy use 20 percent by 2020. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

COMMENTARY: How the world is failing at its climate goals, in one chart. (Washington Post)

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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