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Why large hydro, nuclear and carbon capture should be included in Minnesota’s carbon-free energy mix

As the Minnesota Legislature considers standards for a zero-carbon electricity market, the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future argues large hydro, nuclear and carbon capture should be included.

carbon capture sequestration
Carbon capture sequestration
California Air Resources Board

While working through a historic budget reserve and several significant structural issues, Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders have indicated that adopting a standard for a 100% carbon-free electricity market will be at the top of the list of 2023 priorities.

Over the last 15 years, utilities and developers have invested significantly into renewable resources like wind and solar, which as resulted in Minnesota having one of the most diverse energy mixes in the Midwest. In fact, nearly 30% of electricity generated in Minnesota is from renewable sources.

This legislation, as designed in previous sessions, would recognize only wind, solar, and battery storage as acceptable forms of carbon-free energy. Both wind and solar are weather-dependent resources that require significant baseload power to ensure resiliency on the grid – meaning having power available 24/7/365.

The Coalition for a Secure Energy Future believes a 100% carbon-free future is achievable if policymakers look beyond wind and solar to other zero-carbon resources. For instance, large hydro and nuclear should be included in legislation as carbon-free energy. The other technology that should be included is carbon capture sequestration, or CCS.

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CCS is a proven technology that removes carbon dioxide from emissions generated by fossil fuel resources like natural gas and coal.  In fact, a power plant in North Dakota has been capturing and storing carbon dioxide for nearly 30 years. Furthermore, there are a half dozen local projects currently in different phases of engineering and development to deploy in Minnesota.

Luke Hellier
Luke Hellier

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recognized the potential for CCS to contribute to a carbon-free future. The IRA included numerous provisions and incentives for power producers to adapt existing power generation to include carbon capture. The Minnesota-based Great Plains Institute and the Carbon Capture Coalition were instrumental in working with policymakers to craft legislation that would create market-driven incentives that will work.

The Governor and legislature should think outside the box to include these other technologies to ensure long term that Minnesota has affordable and reliable energy to position our region to be globally competitive.

Luke Hellier of Lakeville, Minnesota, is executive director of the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future, a nonprofit working to ensure affordable, reliable energy for Minnesotans.