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It’s time for Minnesota to lead again on clean energy

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Rep. Jamie Long
Climate change is transforming Minnesota in ways we are only beginning to understand. If we fail to act, by the time children born today reach adulthood, Minnesota’s seasons, weather and natural landscape will look very different. This change is a result of the pollution we create by powering our day-to-day lives with fossil fuels. Climate change is a global crisis, but we are the only country in the world to reject the landmark Paris Climate Agreement (it used to be us and Syria, but even Syria joined). This makes action at the state level that much more critical.

Today, Minnesota has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead our nation’s transition to clean energy, create tens of thousands of homegrown jobs in this new economy, and be a part of building the solutions to climate change. That’s why we’re introducing legislation to update Minnesota’s renewable energy standard to at least 80 percent by 2035 — and to get Minnesota to 100 percent  clean energy by 2050.

A pragmatic, achievable way forward

This fall, a groundbreaking study from the McKnight Foundation found that Minnesota could cost-effectively obtain 91 percent of our electricity from renewable sources using current technology, while creating up to 50,000 renewable energy jobs. Moreover, this past December our largest utility, Xcel Energy, announced a nation-leading goal of delivering 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. Against this backdrop, our proposal is a pragmatic, achievable way forward with the potential to generate cheaper and cleaner energy produced by Minnesota workers right here at home.


Minnesota was once a clean energy leader. In 2007, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, passed the farsighted Next Generation Energy Act. This legislation created a bold vision for our state by implementing a 25 percent renewable energy standard for Minnesota by 2025 and creating our first greenhouse gas reduction goals. Last year, Minnesota reached our 25 percent goal nearly 8 years early, a remarkable accomplishment.

But we are not on track to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals, according to a report released last month by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. We have also lost our role as a national leader on clean energy policy. Other states have set more ambitious benchmarks that reflect the reality of our changing energy market and the scale of action the climate crisis requires. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has made the call for 100 percent clean energy by 2050, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on 100 percent by 2040.

A critical choice

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Sen. Nick Frentz
Clean energy is already a major success story for Minnesota. This sector is growing twice as fast as the state’s economy as a whole. So, we are faced with a critical choice. We can continue to send $13 billion out of state each year to buy fossil fuel energy. Or we can seize the enormous opportunity in front of us, and redouble our investment in wind and solar. What’s more, 40 percent of clean energy jobs are in Greater Minnesota – from the wind farms of the Southwest to the solar panel factory in Mountain Iron.

If Minnesota fails to lead the transition to clean energy, we are leaving major job-creating opportunities on the table, and continuing to threaten the overall health and prosperity of our communities. Minnesota’s farmers are expected to bear the immediate brunt of climate change, as rising temperatures and precipitation levels threaten to reduce Minnesota’s agricultural productivity. Doctors and nurses across our state are raising alarms about the health effects of climate change, including intensified problems with asthma and allergies and higher rates of heat-related and tick-borne illnesses. We also know that these health threats disproportionately impact low-income people and communities of color.

The time has come to regain our place at the forefront of climate and clean energy leadership — and pave the way to a more just, stable future for all Minnesotans. Minnesota’s electric utilities, dynamic workforce, and entrepreneurial businesses have never failed to meet the energy needs of our state. We believe in our ability as Minnesotans to build a successful, thriving clean energy economy. Let’s once again set the national bar for a smart and ambitious transition to clean energy.

Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, is assistant majority leader and represents District 61B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, represents District 19 in the Minnesota Senate.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Ole Johnson on 02/15/2019 - 08:54 am.

    If renewable energy really makes sense, it doesn’t need any government subsidies.

    If wind and solar really are cheaper (and just as reliable) as coal or nuclear, we don’t need to “invest” any tax payer money into this. Excel will make the right economic choice if left alone.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/15/2019 - 11:01 am.

      That would be true if coal and other fossil fuels were not substantially subsidized as well. Just making a level playing field.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/15/2019 - 01:38 pm.

        Coal and oil aren’t subsidized or not nearly to the level of wind and solar. Each of those gets 30+ billion a year. Oil gets a faster depreciation ( tax break) as does coal. A subsidy is technically a direct payment from the govt which is what is what wind and solar both get.

        • Submitted by Dave Eischens on 02/15/2019 - 05:04 pm.

          If not a subsidy by the people, interested in what you would label the socialized cost of oil and gas? Especially the damage caused to health and environment through all phases of extraction, transportation, refining, use, and disposal.

  2. Submitted by Kelly Guncheon on 02/15/2019 - 12:14 pm.

    Just curious if you know, Ole. Who paid for the first roadways that were built after cars were introduced? Also, do you know who funds the vast majority of medical research that supports the development of new drugs and medical devices?

    Moreover, the notion that the government shouldn’t support technology that will make our air cleaner, our fields less toxic, and our citizens more healthy is not only short-sighted but unprecedented.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/15/2019 - 01:42 pm.

      There is a logical fallacy called Tu Quoque. You are using it. Just because the govt did something in the past doesn’t mean they should do it again (nor does it mean they were right to do it in the first place).

      Technology gains come from the private sector where there is a profit motive. Govt typically only develops tech for military purposes…which sometimes ends up working for the public at large too.

      • Submitted by ian wade on 02/15/2019 - 04:57 pm.

        So, it’s your contention that the Federal Highway Act of 1956 shouldn’t have been signed? In another thread you claimed that this country hasn’t had a great president since Eisenhower. Which is it?

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/15/2019 - 06:04 pm.

    While it is certainly legal for the government to implement such plans, it is the consumers and producers that have to pay for it. For Capt. Picard to say : “make it so” is easy, the grunts who are forced to do it are the ones who pay. Do we all have to replace our natural gas furnaces and appliances? Can we use our propane grills? Will the fantastic effort by Minnesotans save the planet while China and India use more and more fossil fuels? Will the farmers be saved by the acts of Minnesota?

    I am all for cleaner energy but would like the costs to be explained in a reasonable manner and an analysis of just how much our state can affect the world’s climate. And could we perhaps make nuclear power a legal option in this state? That would be leadership.

  4. Submitted by jim alders on 02/18/2019 - 09:19 am.

    Oh my. It’s going to be interesting to see just how quickly the electrical system really can be transformed. It’s clear we can continue to add substantial renewables to the system. But more wind and solar has practical limits. Right now nucular plants supply 20 percent of our electricity and they probably won’t be there in 2035. That’s a huge amount of electricity that needs to be replaced in just 15 years. We rely on coal and gas to fill in when wind and solar aren’t producing. Storage technology is expensive and may or may not mature enough in the next 15 years to take the place of gas fired generation. The logistics of deploying enough storage to maintain a reliable power supply in the absence of dispatch able generation seems daunting to me, but we will see.

    Its ok to aspire to be leaders but I think a little more thoughtful approach is in order.

    And just my own little pet peeve … I’m tired of politicians suggesting that anything we do in Minnesota is going to mitigate the climate course the globe is on. I’m not suggesting “do nothing” . I would like to see more focus on the big issues we need to address to get us as far as we reasonably can.

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