By Joe Sheeran, Minnesota 2020
March 7, 2013
It turns out Minnesota can do better than the 25 by 2025* Renewable Energy Standard (RES), according to a broad collation of labor, business, environmental, faith and youth groups. The Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs campaign says the landmark 2007 law was a bold vision for its time. It “boosted our state’s economy, created jobs and served as an example for other states in the region,” according to the coalition’s fact sheet.
However, just 6 years into that 18-year initiative, many of the state’s utilities are already ahead of schedule in renewable production, with some nearing 2/3 competition of the 25 and 30 percent goals, according to J. Drake Hamilton at Fresh Energy. “Utilities are doing a good job,” she says. “Strengthening the standards is the next logical step.”
The coalition or more than 30 groups is calling on policymakers to pass a wide array of green energy legislation, aimed at a cleaner environment, job creation, and economic expansion through renewable technology. Key legislation includes, increasing Minnesota’s RES to 40 percent by 2030, establishing a 10 percent solar standard by 2030, and creating policies that attract manufacturing investment and production.
The first hearing on strengthening the state’s renewables standard will have its first hearing Friday in the House Energy Policy Committee.
Extending renewable standards provides another level of planning certainty to wind investors and manufacturers in a time when this relatively young industry needs policies that provide long-term stability. It also makes economic sense. Accounting for manufacturing components, constructing wind farms, on-going maintenance and operations, and other spin-off jobs, the industry employs about 3000 people in Minnesota.
Furthermore, depending on certain conditions, wind can be the cheapest source of energy on the grid, providing value to utilities and customers.
Another youthful renewable industry that’s becoming more cost effective is solar, which wasn’t much of a consideration in the 2007 RES. Since then, solar technology advancements and the growing number of solar manufacturers and installers setting up shop right here in Minnesota makes this a good time to provide the industry a boost with the 10 percent by 2030 standard. The coalition estimates it would create 2,000 permanent jobs in the first year alone.
If the economic data doesn’t sway folks, there’s a faith-based prong to the campaign. Religious texts mandate that we “care for creation,” says Reverend Mark Peters, executive director of the Lutheran Coalition for the Public Policy in Minnesota.
*Xcel Energy was mandated to produce 30% by 2020.