Minnesota Looks to Double Renewable Energy Standard to 50% by 2030

Bipartisan lawmakers in Minnesota want utilities in that state to procure 50% of power sold by 2030 from renewable sources. The measure, if passed, could put the state’s renewable efforts on par with California’s.

The bipartisan bill introduced in the Minnesota Legislature on February 27 seeks to double the state’s renewable energy standard, which is currently 25% by 2025.

Lawmakers noted that the state is already on track to surpass current goals set by the Next Generation Energy Act, which was enacted by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2007. That bill was overwhelmingly supported by 97% of legislators.

About 21% of Minnesota’s generated electricity came from renewable sources in 2015, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Wind energy generated 17% of the state’s power, biomass generated 3%, and hydro 1%. About 44% came from coal, 21% from nuclear, and 13% from natural gas.

Under a 2007 statute, Xcel Energy—the state’s largest utility—has a separate, more aggressive requirement of getting 31.5% of its power from renewables by 2020, with at least 24% of sales from wind and 1.5% of sales from solar. In 2015, about 23% of Xcel’s electricity supply came from wind, hydro, solar, and biomass. By 2020, the power company anticipates 31% of its power mix will be generated from renewables.

Xcel Energy told POWER on March 1 that its future power plans for Minnesota will already double the renewable energy on the company’s system while reducing carbon emissions by more than 60%. “We’ll continue to invest in cost-effective renewable energy for our customers, as we are doing with our current plans to add up to 1,500 megawatts of new wind energy in the coming years,” it said.

“If we redouble our efforts, and raise Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard to 50 percent by 2030, we will improve air quality, continue to drive down the cost of renewable energy, and generate thousands of new energy jobs,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith in a statement on February 27.

The renewable standard has fueled economic growth in Minnesota, Smith said. Clean energy jobs in the state grew 78% between 2000 and 2014. Raising the standard would create more jobs and be especially beneficial for the state’s environment and natural resources, she said.

“The state’s moose herd has declined by 50 percent. Minnesota’s spruce, fir, aspen, and birch forests have retreated toward Canada, as changing temperatures make our state an inadequate climate. Raising Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and restoring our state’s pristine natural resources,” said Smith.

Twenty-nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia now have renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to sell a specified percentage or amount of renewable power. California’s Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in October 2015 signed into law a bill that expands its historic 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard to require utilities to procure 50% of their power from renewables by 2030.

In December 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed an attempt to freeze state mandates requiring power companies to get more energy from renewable sources. Electric utilities in Ohio are required to get at least 3.5% of the power they sell from renewables in 2017. By 2027, that share would increase to 12.5%.

 

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)