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A win-win investment: Advancing the Clean Power Plan for a modern Minnesota economy

The cost of solar and wind power has dropped about 50 percent in the last five years alone.

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.

Michael Grover

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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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 07/31/2015 - 10:34 am.

    The health benefits get overlooked sometimes

    When you take steps to reduce carbon emissions, you also reduce levels of traditional air pollutants that we know are harmful to human health. This co-benefit alone makes the Clean Power Plan a step in the right direction.

  2. Submitted by lee wick on 07/31/2015 - 12:28 pm.

    Businesses benefit with subsidies, as always

    Businesses make profits at the expense of consumers and taxpayers. Take the Annandale case for example.

  3. Submitted by Tom Karas on 07/31/2015 - 04:22 pm.

    Hate those subsidies, oh ya

    Gee, to think that the coal industry does not have to worry about proper waste management of coal ash due to a great lobby effort (subsidy). And that extraction industries get a tax credit based on the fact that the resource is depleted a bit each year (subsidy). And the really great way that the US military provides security in the Mideast so oil can safely move about to markets (subsidy). And I really appreciate all the public money that went in to the vain effort to make carbon capture and sequestration the real dream that the coal industry made it out to be during the 2008 election cycle (subsidy). Ya, really love those subsidies that prop up the fossil fuel industry.

  4. Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 07/31/2015 - 10:20 pm.

    Green Power

    Three points:

    1) If it is so good, you would not need mandates for wind or solar. (Same goes for ethanol, by the way.) When the day comes that Xcel Energy is lining up to take all the industry can provide…because it makes economic sense–then I am for it. Not until then.

    2) Provides jobs: Yes…and we could pay all the unemployed people to dig ditches this year, and pay them next year to fill them up…ad infinitum. But–we would not have created anything of economic value, and would be poorer–as a nation–as a result. Renewable mandates–forcing consumers to pay more–or to buy something they would not otherwise want is pretty much the same thing.

    3) It is CURIOUS to me that the same people who are complaining about wage stagnation and economic inequality are pushing stuff like this that will EXACERBATE both these problems.

    Just sayin’.

  5. Submitted by Tom Karas on 08/01/2015 - 07:37 am.

    3 points in reverse

    We need mandates because we have a monopoly that will serve the investors first and customers second. Mandates help provide for the delivery of the best overall energy delivery system, not just the one that creates the most ROI. The monopoly system we have provides for a ‘guaranteed rate of return’ on assets for utilities. That is why they like utility solar and not that homeowner stuff, they enjoy a return on it if they have control of it. That is a great mandate when you can get it from the government, especially if you have a monopoly.
    Jobs are created, I have one of them and the work I am doing will help a cheaper energy delivery system well into the future. That cheaper system and my job may be in direct conflict with investor ROI for one company, but I think folks will really enjoy a energy system that does not have fuel costs in 10 – 15 years. It takes a long view and full cost accounting to understand and requires a full investigation of the spoon fed talking points.
    Number 3 in the list above, just makes no sense. See answer number two.

    • Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 09/27/2015 - 10:46 pm.

      Number 3

      Minnesota is a high-cost place to do business.

      High taxes–high regulation–high costs to build. No sense shooting ourselves in the foot by adding higher power costs.

      I go back to point one…build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path, etc…

      Monopolies are not forever. Who could have foreseen the dethroning of IBM…then Microsoft, Nokia, ad infinitum.

      No govt mandates required for IPod, IPad, IPhone, Android operating system, etc…

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 08/01/2015 - 08:54 am.

    Everybody wants to use solar and wind as a power source. The wind and sun is free and available daily to all. The problem is, as of today, it not dependable or economically affordable enough. For all of you that want to use solar/wind feel free to put up solar panels and wind turbines, the govt will subsidies you for doing so. The rest of us who choose to use less expensive current forms of energy, please leave us alone!

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