ST. PAUL -- The Walz administration plans to pursue an ambitious goal to bring Minnesota's electric sector to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.

The proposal would require electric companies in the state to switch to clean energy in the next three decades and bar them from replacing or setting up new power generators with fossil-fuel power sources unless there's no reliable or affordable carbon-free power source available.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday, March 4, announced the proposal surrounded by faith leaders, Democratic lawmakers and clean energy advocates at the Capitol. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor said it was critical to bring the initiatives to address the "existential threat" of climate change. He said he'd spoken with energy utility company heads about the plan and found support with them.

"We stand on the edge of a historic opportunity here," Walz said. "This gives us the opportunity to be that state — the nation and global leader — in removing carbon from our electrical production."

Republican lawmakers and conservative groups were quick to criticize the plan, calling it "extreme" and saying it could drive up utility prices for Minnesotans and eliminate stability in the electric sector.

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"Governor Walz's extreme energy proposals would cause Minnesotans' energy bills to skyrocket, force the closure of reliable and cost-effective power plants and put 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," Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said in a statement. Swedzinski is the Republican Lead on the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division.

The call to drop fossil-fuel power sources comes more than a decade after Minnesota lawmakers and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2007 approved a plan to require that utility companies in the state get at least 25 percent of their energy from carbon-free sources by 2025. The state already passed that standard, and the Walz administration proposal "extends the clean energy trajectory that we're already on," Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said.

"The 100 percent standard sets a destination, but it doesn't dictate the specific roadmap for getting there, we will build that together," Kelley said.

Unlike a proposal put forth this year by Minnesota lawmakers, the plan would let energy companies decide when and how to move away from carbon-based energy sources without benchmarks. And it would not preclude nuclear energy sources.

Minnesota's largest utility company, Xcel Energy, already committed to a similar standard, saying it would generate all of its energy from clean sources by 2050.