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Walz, Flanagan propose plan to achieve 100 percent clean energy in Minnesota by 2050

3/4/2019 10:50:35 AM

ST. PAUL – Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan today announced their One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy – a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2050. The policies build on the success that Minnesota has already achieved in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increasing the use of clean energy resources to power the state while ensuring reliable, affordable electricity.

“Climate change is an existential threat,” Governor Tim Walz said. “We must take immediate action. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will. That is why I am proud to announce a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100% clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2050. These proposals would put us at the forefront of addressing climate change. Minnesota will pioneer the green energy economy—creating jobs while protecting our planet for generations to come.”

“We must take immediate action to protect our planet for future generations,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “We need to stop burning fossil fuels because it pollutes our environment, it’s changing our climate for the worse and it’s no longer economical. This plan sets a clear date and destination for Minnesota’s clean energy journey, along with the pathway to get us there. Minnesota should be a state that continues to lead on this, and we know we can.”

“Minnesota is known as a national leader in setting and achieving clean energy goals, and we now have the opportunity to take this leadership to a new level,” said Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley, whose agency administers the state’s energy policies and programs. “These new policies will not only ensure reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity for Minnesota. They will also give us a cleaner, healthier environment and a strong clean energy economy. Already, more than 59,000 Minnesotans work in clean energy, with 40 percent of these jobs in Greater Minnesota.”  

“We must achieve carbon-neutrality by mid-century and 100 percent carbon-free electricity is the bedrock of that goal,” said Michael Noble, executive director, Fresh Energy. “The announcement today by the Walz Administration and the Department of Commerce helps lead a nation needing leadership. We look forward to working alongside the Administration to accelerate Minnesota’s transition to our clean energy future.”

"In December, Xcel Energy made an historic commitment to deliver carbon-free electricity by 2050,” said LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota Council Representative Joel Smith. “Governor Walz made clear today that he wants to put our state on the same path, with a proposal that includes strong protections for Minnesota workers and communities. LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota stands ready to help. Our members have built and maintained Minnesota’s energy infrastructure for generations. We look forward to building Minnesota’s renewable energy future one wind turbine and solar array at a time, while continuing to safely maintain our carbon-free nuclear power plants."

“The 100% carbon-free commitment, coupled with the Clean Energy First changes to resource planning will fully decarbonize Minnesota's electric supply mix, a critical component of Minnesota's response to global climate change,” said Chris Duffrin-President, Center for Energy and Environment. “One part of the package cleans up Minnesota’s electricity supply.  The other part empowers Minnesotans on how, when, and how efficiently they use that clean electricity supply. Both are necessary for Minnesota to once again lead by example on climate and clean energy.”

Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest utility, has already publicly committed to generate 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2050. Two states – California and Hawaii – have adopted mandates for 100 percent clean energy. More than 100 major global companies have also pledged to meet their energy needs with 100 percent clean energy by 2050 or sooner, with Minnesota’s own 3M being the latest to make this commitment.

Governor Walz’s One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy has three parts:

100 Percent Clean Energy by 2050. This standard would require all electric utilities in Minnesota to use only carbon-free energy resources by 2050, while allowing each utility the flexibility to choose how and at what pace they meet the standard. The proposal includes provisions to assist workers and communities affected by the transition, while prioritizing local jobs and prevailing wages for large new clean energy projects.

Clean Energy First. This regulatory policy would require that, whenever a utility proposes to replace or add new power generation, it must prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels. This policy would strengthen an existing renewable energy preference in Minnesota law, and it would allow for fossil fuel-based power only if needed to ensure reliable, affordable electricity.

Energy Optimization. This proposal would raise Minnesota’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard for investor-owned electric utilities and expand the Conservation Improvement Program that helps Minnesota households and businesses save on their utility bills by using energy more efficiently. It would also encourage utilities to develop innovative new programs to help consumers and businesses switch to more efficient, cleaner energy. In addition, it would target more energy-saving assistance for low-income households.

 These policies build on the success of Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, passed in 2007 with near universal legislative support and signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The law requires utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Minnesota has already effectively achieved that standard. By the end of 2017, 25 percent of the electricity generated in Minnesota came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Meanwhile, electricity produced in the state from coal declined to 39 percent in 2017 from 59 percent in 2007.

The Next Generation Energy Act also set a goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas pollution by 15 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2025, from a 2005 base. As of 2016, greenhouse gas pollution from electricity had already declined about 29 percent since 2005. 

The decrease is due to less coal and more clean energy being used to generate electricity in the state, as well as the positive impact of energy conservation measures. Several Minnesota utilities have already committed to additional coal plant closures that will further reduce greenhouse gas pollution produced by the electricity sector.

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