By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On Wednesday evening, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill for energy and economic development that includes a major milestone for climate action in our state: a path toward 100% carbon-free electricity statewide by 2050. This bill would marshal Minnesota’s utilities, energy efficiency expertise, and ingenuity to solve one of our largest contributions to climate change by eliminating fossil fuel use for our electric grid.
This bill represents a big step forward for Minnesota’s part in tackling climate change. It would require utilities – as Xcel Energy has already pledged – to begin working toward the 100% carbon-free goal. It does not prescribe how they get there, but it includes provisions that make renewable sources like wind and solar a priority for all new generation. It also includes investments in efficiency upgrades, especially for low- and middle-income Minnesotans, to reduce consumption, keeping in mind that the cleanest energy is the energy that isn’t used. That’s a recipe for job growth that will boost communities across the state.
The bill isn’t a silver bullet, and much more work must be done to move Minnesota forward on decarbonization. We need even more ambitious action to grow equitable solar and wind generation for our communities. With transportation now our number one sector for greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture not far behind, we also need to invest heavily in electrifying transportation, expanding public transit and bike infrastructure, and bringing climate-friendly crops to our land. But this bill is a signal that Minnesota is prepared to step up to do our part.
Furthermore, the Minnesota Senate must act to pass its own clean energy legislation. Our Senators must recognize that climate change is a threat that is already affecting every community in our state, and one that requires a truly ambitious response. Though it’s true that Minnesota is one state in a global network of fossil fuel use, this does not mean we should abdicate our responsibility to lead. As Senator Nick Frentz, an author of 100% clean energy legislation, said at a rally in March, “…if Minnesota does not lead, ask yourself, why would any other state?”
It’s Minnesota’s time to take the lead on clean energy. And the passage of this bill shows that we can do it – that the hard work of advocates from around the state is making real change. We thank all of those who have spoken up for a cleaner future, and we urge you to keep up the good work. (And we invite you to attend the 100% Campaign End of Session Rally at the State Capitol on May 13 to continue the effort!)