'Green Bank' among new MN climate efforts trying to get off ground
Thursday, January 11, 2024
When Minnesota lawmakers reconvene in the coming weeks, additional climate change work is expected.
Meanwhile, bigger moves from last year are being implemented, including a new "Green Bank." Many of the climate policies from 2023 are still taking shape, including the new Minnesota Climate Innovation Finance Authority.
Peter Klein, executive director of the authority, said it will be a facilitator for new federal funds coming in for clean energy projects around the state. He pointed out it will help bridge gaps for developments close to taking off but still having hurdles to overcome.
"MNCIFA really is an agency that's going to have a positive impact on every Minnesotan and really ensure that every Minnesotan has the ability to participate in the clean energy economy and benefit from it," Klein stated.
As part of the law creating the agency, a certain percentage of investments have to be made in underserved communities. Under pressure to recruit talent, the Minnesota Commerce Department has been adding staff to assist with the clean energy transition. Despite the possibility of other moves, Minnesota is in the first year of its new budget cycle, and with a smaller surplus on the horizon, there is little expectation for additional spending.
But advocates are hopeful the state will maintain a climate focus, including work already started.
Amelia Cerling Hennes, managing director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, said the region has a robust workforce within this sector. The group wants timely implementation of programs so progress is not derailed, and Hennes noted they are encouraged by the talent leading the charge.
"We need smart people who understand the clean energy system working at the state level so that they can help stand up these programs and make them really successful," Hennes emphasized.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers have hinted they will pursue regulatory changes to speed up the approval process for clean energy projects. Organizations such as Clean Energy Economy Minnesota are among those calling for changes to keep checks and balances in place but still allow wind, solar, and similar development to move more quickly.
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