What is the #OneMinnesota Path to Clean Energy?

Image Courtesy MPR News

Image Courtesy MPR News

So, what’s in the Governor Walz’s One Minnesota Pathway to Clean Energy Act? Well, the thing that everyone has been talking about is the 100 Percent Carbon-Free Standard. That’s the part that actually says we’ve gotta get off fossil fuels and transition to 100% clean energy.

How are we going to do this? The answer to this question is the other two pieces of the Act: Clean Energy First and Energy Optimization. Now, let’s get into the details by de-wonking what each of these pieces actually means.

100 Percent Carbon-Free Standard

We know that climate change is crisis, and we’ve gotta do something about it. We also know that our electricity generation is a major contributor to climate change.  By requiring our electric utilities (think the companies who send you your energy bill) to use carbon-free fuels by a specific deadline, we can massively reduce carbon pollution from our power sector.

This Act specifies the year 2050 as the deadline for all utilities to make the transition to 100% carbon-free sources. By setting the date of 2050, utilities are given planning time and flexibility to reach their goals in a reliable and affordable manner.

So, what specific mechanisms help move the utilities in the direction of 100% carbon-free in a timely fashion? That’s where Clean Energy First and Energy Optimization come in.

Clean Energy First

In the next 20 years, it’s expected that many of the large power plants currently serving Minnesotans will reach the end of their lives. Plants’ retirements provide a huge opportunity to replace dirty fossil fuel energies like coal with renewable energies like wind and solar.

The core goal of Clean Energy First is to increase the likelihood for renewables to be the choice replacement when a plant closes. When utilities are choosing how to replace plants, they must calculate the costs of many different pathways forward -- how much it would cost to place with renewables vs. natural gas vs. nuclear, etc. Clean Energy First requires utilities to look at “preferred clean energy resources” before exploring other options.

This bill also expands what is meant by the term “preferred clean energy resources.” These preferred resources would be updated to include our integrated renewables system: energy storage, energy efficiency, and load management.

Energy Optimization Act

A crucial piece of us transitioning to 100% clean energy is energy efficiency. By putting money toward energy efficiency efforts, we not only reduce the amount of energy we’re consuming but also reduce energy costs for Minnesota families and businesses.

Efficiency is the unsung hero of the climate debate. It reduces our emissions, improves our homes & businesses, and saves all of us money along the way.

The Energy Optimization Act builds on our existing energy efficiency statute, know as the Conservation Improvement Program, or CIP for short. The bill:

  • Increases the energy efficiency goal for our major utilities from 1.5% to 1.75%. This means they must reduce energy use across their system that much more every year.

  • Doubles the amount of money utilities must invest in energy efficiency with low-income Minnesotans, including renters.

  • Creates programs to encourage Minnesota families to use lower carbon (or zero carbon) technologies and improves our system’s ability to shift our energy use to lower cost times of the day.  

Ashley Fairbanks