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Minnesota’s energy sector: a win-win combination

America's energy system is in the midst of a remarkable transformation.

America's energy system is in the midst of a remarkable transformation. The result? A cleaner and more diverse energy system that saves people money.

Gregg Mast

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently released its 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The data told a compelling story: energy businesses are thriving and growing faster than what many imagined. It also said renewable energy, energy efficiency, and natural gas are - together - dominating today's energy economy.

Minnesota was in the spotlight, once again, for being a national leader in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. These changes are fostering the creation of high-paying jobs while increasing our energy productivity and competitiveness through cheaper energy bills.

Lisa Jacobson

It's Minnesota's entrepreneurial spirit and homegrown ingenuity that makes this win-win combination possible. Underpinning Minnesota's advancements has been a commitment to grow both public and private clean energy investments – especially in rural communities – from policy makers.

Retail electricity prices across the U.S. are down an average 1.3 percent since this time last year and consumers devoted less than 4 percent of their total annual household spending on energy – the smallest share ever recorded. Natural gas prices are falling and so are the prices of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In fact, according to the Factbook, renewable energy is now competitive with, and in some markets, cheaper than coal and natural gas.

Minnesota's energy efficiency sector plays a significant role in our work to build a prosperous energy economy. We continue to outspend many of our neighbors on cost-saving energy efficiency measures, which is reducing energy waste and keeping money in consumers’ pockets. In fact, Minnesota ranks 10th out of all 50 states in this category.

Renewable energy and natural gas together provide 35 percent of Minnesota’s energy needs. Renewable energy production is trending upward, growing from 14 percent to 22 percent of annual generation in just the last five years. This momentum is helping Minnesota to meet and exceed our current Renewable Energy Standard of 25 percent by 2025.

While energy markets will always be subject to surprises and occasional disruptions, this year’s Factbook shows that we are poised to enter a new golden age of clean, reliable and affordable energy.

Our state leaders must come together this session to build on the progress we’ve made, providing Minnesotans with a cleaner, more affordable and resilient energy system. The nation is looking at us to lead the way.

Gregg Mast is the executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. Lisa Jacobson is the president of Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

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