Minnesota’s legislature might have missed an opportunity to advance the state’s clean energy future during this year’s session, but with Governor Dayton’s support for clean energy and leadership from state agencies, there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.
First off, a big THANK YOU to Governor Dayton for his committed defense of the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency policies this past legislative session. His strong stance against proposed legislative rollbacks resulted in the defeat of most of the bad energy legislation being pushed by Representative Garofalo, and the Jobs and Energy bill that he signed into law retained much of what makes Minnesota a clean energy leader.
The law did take a step backwards on small-scale renewable energy however, limiting access for customers of rural cooperatives and municipal utilities that choose to generate their own electricity by installing solar panels or wind turbines. These changes to law were an unnecessary hurdle for small-scale renewable energy investments.
Just as importantly, the legislature also missed an opportunity to move Minnesota’s clean energy future further towards reality. Proposals to increase the state’s renewable energy standard and energy efficiency standard stalled in the legislature despite strong public support and a large body of evidence showing the benefits that these strengthened standards could provide. UCS analysis showed that a strengthened renewable energy standard of 40 percent by 2030 would drive more than $6 billion in new capital investments, support local communities, and reduce the state’s dependence on out-of-state fossil fuel resources — all for about 12 cents per month for the typical household.
But there is still significant opportunity to advance the state’s clean energy economy through several initiatives currently underway in Minnesota, including complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan that will impose first-ever (and much-needed) restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants—the largest source of global warming emissions in the United States. The rule is expected to be finalized this summer, and Minnesota’s plan for compliance presents another opportunity to prioritize renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In fact, an analysis that UCS released earlier this month shows how Minnesota’s current renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have already given the state a great head start towards compliance. The state’s current renewable energy and energy efficiency standard, combined with planned coal plant retirements will have the state nearly 90 percent of the way towards meeting its 2020 target for carbon emissions reductions.
To figure out the best path forward towards meeting the Clean Power Plan’s ultimate 2030 emission reductions standard for Minnesota, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has already begun seeking input from a variety of stakeholders, including utilities and public interest organizations. Getting this process off the ground in an open and transparent fashion will be critical to developing a plan that maximizes the benefits of the clean energy transition to Minnesotans.
Several state and national stakeholders are also getting their heads together in another Minnesota venue – the e21 Initiative – to map out a new utility regulatory structure that will facilitate a smoother transition for utilities and consumers to a more clean-energy-friendly electricity sector. This initiative will provide valuable insights into how Minnesota and other states can maintain a reliable and affordable electricity supply in the face of rapid changes to how we generate, transmit, and use electricity.
The Minnesota legislature may have dropped the ball on clean energy, but the game isn’t over thanks to Governor Dayton and the thousands of clean energy supporters that had his back in defending Minnesota’s clean energy commitments. Now it’s time to look forward to the next opportunity – through Clean Power Plan compliance and other innovative initiatives – to build on Minnesota’s long history of success with clean energy.