Next week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue its final version of the Clean Power Plan, otherwise known as the CPP. The CPP will instate the first-ever caps on carbon emissions from our nation’s power plants, with the goal of slashing carbon pollution by 30 percent or more nationwide by 2030.
This monumental initiative will not only provide Minnesota with the opportunity to drastically reduce our carbon footprint, it will also allow us to modernize the way we power our lives while investing in energy sources that will grow our economy for years to come.
But in order to get there, we’ll need Minnesota’s air and energy regulators to continue to recognize the benefits of renewable power development in our state’s CPP implementation plan. Fortunately for us, this won’t be hard to do, as Minnesota’s burgeoning renewable energy industry will be ready to help our state meet the requirements of the rules, while providing a significant boost to our economy.
Solar and wind are both competitive
Consider the facts. The cost of solar and wind power has dropped about 50 percent in the last five years alone, and according to the investment firm Lazard, both technologies are now cost competitive with coal-fired power plants. Minnesota ranks fifth in the U.S. for share of electricity generated by wind (supported by the $7.6 billion of investment the sector has seen in our state over the past 10 years).
As Forbes pointed out in its June article “Minnesota Is Where You Will Find the New Solar Gold Rush,” the state is currently experiencing a renaissance in solar energy projects and related employment. There are more than 115 solar companies operating across the Minnesota solar value chain, employing 1,800 individuals. That number will undoubtedly grow if we are able to continue the momentum our state has built over the past decade in our state’s CPP implementation plan.
Under a high-demand growth scenario, Minnesota could more than double the amount of energy we generate from renewable sources by 2030. In that scenario, the state would create more than 35,000 additional jobs ($2 billion in wages and benefits) during construction, and 1,200 jobs ($76 million in annual wages and benefits) during operation. This is the type of growth and development that is possible if we are fully committed to investing in affordable and reliable renewable energy sources to power Minnesota’s future energy needs.
Businesses see benefits of CPP
This reality is not only recognized by the clean energy sector. Many of our nation’s largest employers have also acknowledged how the Clean Power Plan will help grow their businesses. In fact, industry leaders like Mars Inc., VF Corporation, Levi Strauss, IKEA, Unilever and Nestle have all announced their support for the CPP.
Minnesota should be proud of our leadership position on renewable energy. Implementing our state specific Clean Power Plan is another chance to demonstrate our foresight into the direction of the market. Let’s use this opportunity to accelerate our investment in the future of our energy supply and Minnesota’s economy.
Mike Grover is managing director at EverStream Capital, a Minneapolis-based global asset management firm that invests in renewable energy and power infrastructure.
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