Walz announces plan to move Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy by 2050

March 04, 2019 06:24 PM

Gov. Tim Walz Monday announced a set of policy proposals he said are meant to lead Minnesota to achieve 100 percent clean energy in the state's electricity sector by 2050.

Flanked by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and others, Walz laid out a plan entitled "One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy." 


According to a release, all electric utilities in Minnesota would be required to use only carbon-free energy sources by 2050, though the plan would allow each utility to use flexibility to "choose how and at what pace they meet the standard." The release said the proposal includes provisions to assist workers and communities who will be impacted by the transition, "while prioritizing local jobs and prevailing wages for large new clean energy projects."

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Officials at Monday's press conference said that standard could include nuclear power, though Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said it is far from certain that the state's two nuclear power plants would still be operating in their current form by 2050.

The plan also calls for a regulatory policy requiring that whenever a utility proposes to replace or add new power generation, "it must prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels." The release said the plan would allow for fossil fuel-based power "only if needed to ensure reliable, affordable electricity."

In addition, the release said the plan would raise the state's "Energy Efficiency Resource Standard for investor-owned electric utilities and expand the Conservation Improvement Program that helps Minnesota households and businesses save on their utility bills by using energy more efficiently."

It also encourages utilities to devise new programs to help residents and businesses switch to "more efficient, cleaner energy," and targets "more energy assistance for low-income households."

Walz said the plan is being worked out in partnership with the state's energy utilities. The release said Xcel Energy, Minnesota's largest utility, has already committed to generate 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2050.

According to 2018 numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Minnesota is still heavily dependant on coal to generate electricity. 

“Climate change is an existential threat,” Walz said in a statement.

“We must take immediate action. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will. That is why I am proud to announce a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2050. These proposals would put us at the forefront of addressing climate change. Minnesota will pioneer the green energy economy - creating jobs while protecting our planet for generations to come.”

The proposals drew criticism from Republican lawmakers, who said they would cause energy bills to increase.


"Governor Walz's extreme energy proposals would cause Minnesotans' energy bills to skyrocket, force the closure of reliable and cost-effective power plants, and puts Minnesota all-in on technology that simply cannot provide the reliable power you need to keep the lights on and heat your home in the winter," read a statement from Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), the Republican Lead on the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division.

"The recent cold-snap showed how important it is to have an energy grid that is reliable and won't falter even during the worst polar vortexes - betting on unproven technology will be expensive and risky for the state.

"Rather than bending to every demand of environmental activist groups by blocking the Line 3 pipeline and backing expensive energy mandates, the Governor should embrace a true 'One Minnesota' all-of-the-above energy strategy that ensures Minnesotans have energy that is reliable and affordable."

Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound), the Chairman of the Sanate Committee on Energy and Utilities, added, "While Governor Walz's 100 percent clean energy proposal is a laudable goal, it ignores the stark reality that we will always have a need for traditional energy generation methods, which includes carbon-based options. During the recent polar vortex, when Minnesota's wind turbines ceased to operate at 22 degrees below zero, millions of families across our state would have been left without power had it not been for traditional energy sources. For the safety of every Minnesotan, we must continue to have an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy, if for no other reason than as a back-up in emergency situations. 

"Further, as we approach 40 percent in renewable energy generation, our current power grid will need substantial and costly transmission upgrades. A push to 100 percent will cause energy prices to skyrocket in our state, put a strain on the budgets of every Minnesota family, and severely impact our business community.  I look forward to reviewing the details of the governor's proposal and I am encouraged he has recognized the importance of nuclear in our overall energy plan."


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