Minnesota Scientists, Engineers, Economists, and Health Professionals Support Clean Energy

January 29, 2015 | 10:22 am
Lee Frelich
Director, Center for Forest Ecology, University of Minnesota

Minnesota has an important opportunity this year to continue its leadership on clean energy.  I, along with 54 other Minnesota scientists, engineers, economists, and health professionals, support requiring 40 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, by the year 2030.

Renewable energy is already working for Minnesota.  Our current renewable energy standard (RES) of 25 percent by 2025 has created jobs, provided affordable electricity for families and businesses, and reduced pollution to our lakes, rivers, and streams. Renewable energy powers hundreds of thousands of homes in Minnesota and we have only begun to realize our renewable energy potential. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Minnesota could generate more than 20 times its 2013 electricity demand with wind energy.

Minnesota Nice

However, Minnesota still relies heavily on dirty fossil fuels to meet most of its electricity demand. Ramping up renewables and moving away from expensive fossil fuels is one of the best steps Minnesota can take to improve public health, boost local economies, and help protect communities from the consequences of climate change. Increasing the proportion of renewable energy is the most effective way to help the regional economy, protect the environment, and improve our quality of life.

Wind Farm in Tracy, MN. Photo credit: Mark Kaletka, Flickr.

Wind Farm in Tracy, MN. Photo credit: Mark Kaletka, Flickr.

Wind and solar costs have declined dramatically in recent years, making these zero-carbon technologies competitive with coal and natural gas power without exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices. Renewable energy saves Minnesota money in the long-term and we need a responsible plan that maximizes cost savings for rate payers. Our existing RES has been achieved at little to no cost to consumers. Due to declining wind and solar costs, technology advances, and Minnesota’s wealth of available renewable energy resources, we can now significantly increase our use of renewable energy while maintaining the reliability of our electricity system and keeping utility bills affordable.

As an ecologist, I understand the great risk that an overreliance on fossil fuels poses to our environment and our health. Minnesota’s commitment to renewable energy has contributed to the reduction of harmful pollutants that lead to health ailments.  Reducing our use of fossil fuels that emit these pollutants and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help Minnesota ensure a healthy legacy for our children and future generations.

Minnesota has vast clean energy potential that can be developed affordably with proven technologies. Increasing our use of renewable energy to at least 40 percent by 2030 will further protect our health, cut carbon dioxide pollution to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and reinvigorate Minnesota’s clean energy economy. By generating more of our electricity from renewable energy sources, we can continue to protect all that makes Minnesota a special place to live.

Sign the letter by clicking here: www.ucsusa.org/minnesotaletter  

Lee E. Frelich is Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology. He received a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986. Frelich teaches courses in Forest Fire Ecology and Landscape Ecology on St.Paul Campus, and has advised 23 graduate students. Frelich has authored more than 140 publications with 120 coauthors from 15 countries, including major works for Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. He is listed among the top 1% of all scientists in the world in the Thompson-Reuters Essential Science Indicators, Ecology and Environment Category. His research has been featured in the news media 400 times, including such venues as The New York Times and National Geographic. Frelich has provided consulting services on forest management for many government agencies, including The U.S. Army, Air Force, National Forest Service, National Park Service, and Departments of Natural Resources in several states. Current research interests include fire and wind in boreal forests, old-growth hemlock and maple forests, invasive earthworms in forests, deer and moose browsing, patterns of tree height, and impacts of climate change.

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