States Take Lead with Plans for 100% Carbon-Free Energy

Minnesota and Wisconsin recently joined the list of states aiming for a 100% clean-energy future, while some Illinois lawmakers are pushing for not only carbon-free power, but also 100% renewable energy.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) was the latest to announce a set of policy proposals designed to lead his state’s electricity sector to 100% clean energy by 2050. “Climate change is an existential threat,” Walz said in a statement on March 4. “We must take immediate action. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will.”

Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest utility, has already publicly committed to generate 100% of its electricity from clean energy by 2050. Xcel operates three nuclear reactors in Minnesota—the dual-unit 1,100-MW Prairie Island facility and the single-unit 671-MW Monticello plant. Nuclear power fits the bill as a carbon-free source, but none of the three units is currently licensed to operate beyond 2034.

In neighboring Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers (D) also wants to require his state’s utilities to be carbon-free by 2050. The measure was part of Evers’ budget proposal released on Feb. 28. His plan would significantly increase state funding for renewable energy and conservation, and like Minnesota’s proposal, would allow nuclear generation to be part of the clean-energy mix. The two-unit 1,193-MW Point Beach station is Wisconsin’s only operational nuclear plant. Unit 1’s license expires on Oct. 5, 2030, and Unit 2’s ends March 8, 2033.

Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act was passed in December 2016. Exelon lobbied heavily for that bill, which included subsidies for struggling nuclear plants. Now, however, some lawmakers want to enact legislation that would transition Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050, thereby excluding nuclear power from the mix. According to the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition—a group of environmental, environmental justice, healthcare, consumer, business, and faith leaders—Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is committed to moving Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB 3624/SB 2132), which is sponsored by 34 state representatives and 10 state senators, could cement the requirement.

“The clean energy future is happening—it’s inevitable. The question is, can Illinois lead the way? With this bill, the answer is a clear and unequivocal ‘yes,’ ” state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), a sponsor of the bill, said in a press release.

Hawaii was the first state to commit to 100% clean energy when, on June 8, 2015, Gov. David Ige (D) signed into law a landmark bill, requiring all of the state’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources by the year 2045. On Sept. 10, 2018, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) followed suit, signing into law a measure requiring his state to produce all its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order on May 23, 2018, directing the development of an updated Energy Master Plan for the state to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. New York also joined the push for renewable energy when on Jan. 15, 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced an initiative for his state to achieve 100% carbon-free power generation by 2040. Cuomo’s “Green New Deal”—part of his 2019 Justice Agenda and included in the state budget—calls for an increase in deployments of renewable energy projects, including offshore wind.

More than 100 major global companies have also pledged to meet their energy needs with 100% clean energy by 2050 or sooner, with Minnesota-based 3M being the latest to make this commitment. The trend is in stark contrast to federal actions taken under President Trump. One of Trump’s first steps was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement on climate change, which he announced on June 1, 2017.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article