Every Minnesotan facing higher utility bills each month knows that energy prices are soaring.
A variety of factors such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the pandemic, inflation, supply chain disruptions and severe weather events are all converging at once, contributing to increased volatility and higher prices. Many Minnesota families are struggling to keep up with energy costs, underscoring the importance of rapidly expanding our homegrown sources of clean energy. Doing so will ensure we can generate local jobs and deliver low-cost, reliable, and resilient energy. It will also spur economic development opportunities and secure our energy independence.
According to the 2021 Minnesota Energy Factsheet, Minnesota electricity imports fell to their lowest level in more than two decades in 2020. While this is partially because of the overall reduction in energy use due to the pandemic, it is also due to the fact that in 2020, wind and solar accounted for all new electricity generation added in the state totaling 588 megawatts. Investing further in innovative clean energy technologies and solutions will increase the amount of local energy we can produce, which in turn will provide Minnesota workers with family-sustaining jobs and careers. Minnesotans pride themselves on self-reliance and resilience, both of which clean energy provides.
Currently, 55,300 Minnesotans work in the clean energy industry, with over 40 percent of jobs residing in Greater Minnesota. My business, an engineering company called EVS, Inc. based in Eden Prairie, employs 118 people. We have grown more than 300 percent over the past several years after refocusing our business to provide engineering services for large-scale solar and other renewable energy projects in both Minnesota and across the country. As a veteran of this industry, I know clean energy work is a key to our success now and in the future.
Clean energy is not only affordable, with the prices continuing to decrease, but also reliable and will lead us to energy independence. Data from BloombergNEF in the Factsheet compares the cost of producing electricity from a host of different technologies including wind, solar and natural gas. And you know what the data finds? Building a wind farm continues to be the lowest cost form of new energy to build today – and that is on an unsubsidized basis. Wind and solar power come at a lower cost because these fuel sources of energy are abundant and free. Moreover, rapidly evolving battery storage technologies will allow us to store this power for use when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.
We are on our way to a reliable and secure clean energy future, but we must accelerate action to continue pushing forward. The Minnesota Legislature is debating several bills this session that aim to further Minnesota’s clean energy progress. This includes supporting innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses working to make Minnesota a hub for clean energy technology innovation and deployment. Lawmakers are also working to modernize Minnesota’s nation-leading community solar garden program and setting a goal to cut emissions from existing buildings in half by 2035. At the federal level, we are also seeing unprecedented levels of investment into energy efficiency and clean energy with the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Now is the time for Minnesota to seize the opportunity to capture and leverage as many federal dollars as possible through the IIJA to assist in furthering our clean energy future. The Biden Administration and Congress need to also strike a deal that places historic levels of clean energy investments at the foundation of the federal reconciliation budget. These investments will spur clean energy innovation, lower energy bills, and improve our energy and economic security.
With rapid inflation and international conflicts impacting worldwide energy markets, it is clear that diversifying our energy mix with cleaner and cheaper energy is a win-win. Clean energy allows us to control our own energy supply and costs so we know that our families are taken care of and our businesses can thrive. Now is the perfect time to rapidly accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy to not only lower energy costs for Minnesota families but to increase our energy security and independence as well.
Andy Kim is president of EVS, Inc., an engineering firm based in Eden Prairie.