Minnesota one step closer to carbon-free energy future

MN Senate Thursday
MN Senate Thursday(c span)
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:16 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2023 at 1:01 AM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - New legislation out of St. Paul could bring massive changes to Minnesota’s energy grid for years to come.

The “100 percent by 2040″ bill requires electric utilities to transition to using only carbon-free energy sources over the next 17 years.

The bill passed the state senate 34-33 along party lines Thursday, with DFL Senator Grant Hauschild of Hermantown voting for it.

“I’m really excited about this bill. It was something that I campaigned on. We need to address the issues of climate change. It’s impacting all sectors of our economy and our kids’ future,” said Senator Hauschild.

It eventually requires electric utilities to get 100 percent of their power from energy sources that don’t create carbon dioxide, which means doing away with coal and natural gas.

“First and foremost, the goal is ultimately that our electric grid will be carbon neutral by 2040, and so we’re gonna get there by relying on things like investments in solar and wind,” Hauschild said.

According to Hauschild, the push for green energy could help many workers in the Northland.

Not everyone is so hopeful.

Republican Representative Natalie Zeleznikar, from just north of Duluth, said it may be too much change.

“You know, I don’t think it’s a reasonable plan,” said Representative Zeleznikar.

According to Zeleznikar, going carbon-free will cause energy bills to go way up.

She and other republicans also say going completely renewable in Minnesota may not make that much difference unless most of the world follows suit.

“The impact we’re going to do in Minnesota worldwide is going to be minuscule, but the impact on our lives is going to be monumental,” said Zeleznikar.

She was hoping for a bill where lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worked together.

“My hope would be that we take some compromise, and 100% doesn’t work in life usually on anything. 80% is okay to me. 90% would be great. You have goals, but to mandate 100% is concerning to me,” Zeleznikar said.

Two of the state’s largest electric utilities, Xcel and Minnesota Power, have already pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

This proposal would move that deadline up a decade.

Minnesota Power issued a statement today about the bill passing, which is listed below.

“Minnesota Power is committed to producing and delivering safe, reliable, affordable and carbon-free energy to our 145,000 electric customers in northeastern Minnesota. We announced our vision for delivering a 100% carbon-free energy supply in 2050 just two short years ago. In November 2022, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved our Integrated Resource Plan, reaffirming our EnergyForward investments that transition us from coal, continue to add renewable resources and strengthen the electric grid. There is no debate that Minnesota Power is a national success story for progress in reducing carbon and adding hundreds of megawatts of new sources of wind and solar, and we are proud to be a longstanding leader in this effort. As Minnesota Power strives to achieve our carbon-free energy vision, our mission is simple: “Get it Right” for all of our customers and the communities we serve. Minnesota Power’s transition prioritizes safe and reliable service while benefiting all customers equitably. We achieved a 50% renewable energy supply while keeping reliability and affordability at the forefront of our strategy, Continued transmission and renewable investments will be needed to accelerate our EnergyForward plan in the most affordable ways for our customers. Advancing Minnesota’s carbon-free energy future will require further technological advancements, and the ability to effectively permit and integrate the necessary infrastructure affordably. There is a lot of work ahead for all of us. We believe that, with everyone working together, Minnesota can reach the 100% standard, but we have to do it the right way to ensure our residents, businesses, and communities do not suffer. Legislators have listened closely as we have briefed them about the state of technology and the investments that will be needed to create a more resilient grid. As this becomes law, we will continue to work with legislators, regulators and customers to ensure we can preserve reliable and safe energy in the most affordable way possible. We appreciate the governor’s leadership, encouraging all Minnesotans to embrace sustainability as both a value and as a daily call to action. Minnesota Power’s position is clear: We support a carbon-free energy future with a transition that protects reliability, safety, affordability, and ensures equity by leaving no one behind. This state law that accelerates this transition needs to ensure that Minnesota continues to “Get it Right” for the climate, customers, workers, and communities.”