There is a massive transformation happening behind your light switch, and it has the power to change our lives for the better. For hundreds of years, we compromised our health and communities, our clean air and water and our climate to power our economy on fossil fuels. We won’t and don’t need to anymore. The future is 100 percent clean, renewable energy for all.
Xcel Energy and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recently took a landmark step in the right direction by approving a plan to double the amount of Xcel’s wind and solar and phase out coal burning at two units at the largest polluter in the state, Sherco in Becker, Minnesota.
Wasting less energy, saving money
For three years in St. Cloud, I saw and helped sow the seeds of this transformation. Community members talking about the health impacts of living in the shadow of Sherco and the growing opportunities in the clean energy economy, whether it be community solar gardens, electric bus manufacturing, developing wind farms or helping homes and businesses waste less energy and save money on their electric bills. At its core, the transformation beyond fossil fuels to renewable energy is about us living out our values as Minnesotans: We can do better for our fellow Minnesotans and future generations by building an innovative, sustainable electric system and a diverse, economically secure Minnesota workforce that guarantees a cleaner environment, healthier lives and sustainable jobs.
I recently moved to Alexandria and I see more examples of Minnesota’s growing clean-energy economy. The local coop’s solar program is powered by Minnesota-made panels. Our public schools are educating students on energy efficiency while reducing energy waste and saving money on their electric bills. The clean-energy progress being made by Minnesota communities and utilities is a shining example for others to join in the responsible transition beyond fossil fuels to protect our climate.
We must ensure racial and economic justice
Climate change will impact us all, but it will hit vulnerable communities hardest. We have an opportunity and an obligation to ensure racial and economic justice is at the core of the transformation of our electric system. Workers and communities that have made their livelihoods with fossil fuels, people of color and those with low income who have historically shared more than their fair share of the burden of pollution and not the benefit of energy investments and jobs must have a say in helping shape Minnesota’s clean energy economy.
The responsible and necessary transition beyond fossil fuels in Minnesota gives me hope as a young person. I see world leaders pledging to take action on climate change and know that the United States has played a leadership role in this international agreement because of energy transformations, like Xcel’s plan, that are moving communities beyond coal to clean energy across the country.
Preeti Yonjon is a graduate student at St. Cloud State University studying gerontology and social responsibility. She lives in Alexandria.
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