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Plans for Clean-Energy Policy Get New Life in MN

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Minnesota already has met its goal of using 25% renewable energy by 2025. But advocates want the state to be carbon free by 2050. (SDRandCo/Morguefile)
Minnesota already has met its goal of using 25% renewable energy by 2025. But advocates want the state to be carbon free by 2050. (SDRandCo/Morguefile)
January 7, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Supporters of a statewide clean-energy policy for Minnesota have renewed hope that such a plan will pass; that's because a key GOP lawmaker no longer opposes it.

In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz pushed a plan that called on utilities to be carbon free by 2050. That bill ultimately failed. But Senate Republican David Osmek, who chairs the Energy and Utilities Committee, has now said he will support a similar plan this year.

Gregg Mast heads the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. He said with the state already proving it can meet renewable-energy standards, it needs to regain momentum.

"What the Senate Republicans are now bringing forward as a policy proposal is really a logical next step in figuring out where and how we can continue to explore ways to increase the amount of renewable energy and clean energy here in Minnesota to position us well for the future," Mast said.

The GOP proposal would require Minnesota utilities to prioritize carbon-free technology in their future plans when they are submitted to regulators. But unlike previous bills, this plan would include nuclear power as a clean-energy source.

Still, Mast said he doesn't see that as a roadblock. He said he believes most utilities will still focus on traditional clean-energy sources because technology advancements will lower costs.

Mast said there are still a lot of challenges in trying to make Minnesota solely reliant on clean energy, including infrastructure needs. But he said they have to respond to a growing sentiment for this type of action.

"It's what consumers are expecting us to do. It's what businesses also are seeking to incorporate more into their long-term strategic goals," he said.

A recent survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found 84% of Minnesota residents support renewable energy research. And Xcel Energy, the state's largest electric utility, already is implementing its own plan to be carbon free by 2050.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN