Minnesota is a national clean energy leader. The state has nearly tripled its renewable energy supply since 2007, when it passed a renewable energy standard (RES) requiring utilities to achieve 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Today Minnesotans receive more than 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, and biomass resources.
Despite this success, Minnesota is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels to meet its electricity demand, and renewable energy investments will likely slow in coming years as utilities achieve full compliance with the current RES.
But with its vast untapped wind and solar resources, Minnesota has the opportunity to build on its history of leadership and success by setting a new target: 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Doing so would drive significant investments in Minnesota's renewable energy resources and provide economic benefits to communities throughout the state. And it can be achieved at virtually no additional cost to consumers.
Delivering significant economic benefits throughout Minnesota
Minnesota’s existing RES has already brought significant economic benefits to the state with little or no change in electricity bills.
For example, $5.6 billion has been invested in Minnesota wind facilities since 2007, which have paid $42 million in state taxes—money distributed to municipalities to support local services. In addition, owners of wind facilities pay landowners almost $10 million annually for using their land.
Continued development of renewable energy would enable Minnesota to further bolster state and local economies. By 2030, strengthening the RES to 40 percent would drive some $6.2 billion in new capital investments, yield more than $14 million annually in tax payments to local governments, and provide $9 million each year in lease payments to landowners. Further, payments to operate and maintain renewable energy facilities in Minnesota would top $150 million annually by 2030.
The economic benefits would accrue across Minnesota, but rural communities would particularly gain because renewable energy facilities tend to be located in rural areas where land is available for utility-scale renewable energy development.
Wind turbines, such these outside of Tracy, MN, are not only an important source of renewable energy, but also a driver of significant economic benefits for host communities. Photo: Mark Kaletka/Flickr
Accelerating the transition to a cleaner, more diverse, and lower-carbon electricity system — at virtually no additional cost
Minnesota can strengthen its commitment to renewable energy with essentially no impact on average retail electricity rates.
The total cumulative added cost to consumers of a strengthened RES would be less than 0.2 percent of total electricity expenditures through 2030 — or about 12 cents per month for the typical Minnesota household.
A strengthened RES would also improve public health by lessening Minnesota's use of fossil fuels and boosting the state's energy independence by reducing reliance on out-of-state electricity generation, much of which comes from coal-heavy states such as North and South Dakota.
The increased renewable energy generation under a 40 percent by 2030 RES also positions the state to comply with pending federal requirements to cut carbon pollution from power plants.
Minnesota is well-poised to retain its national leadership in clean energy development while keeping rates affordable and driving significant economic, environmental, and public health benefits. With appropriate policies, robust planning, and committed leaders, Minnesota's energy future is bright.
Photo: Clean Energy Resource Team/Flickr