Letter: Minnesota is leading the way towards a clean energy economy

Minnesota is leading the charge on the clean energy transformation taking place across the U.S. energy landscape.

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF recently released the 2019 Minnesota State Energy Factsheet. The data shows the cost of wind and solar is dramatically declining – 16 percent and 23 percent respectively over just the past year. As individual states incorporate more clean energy, Minnesota remains a standout in the Midwest with clean energy jobs growing at a rate twice as fast as all other job types in the state.

It is important to note that these trends and economic benefits extend to all corners of the state. Greater Minnesota is home to 40 percent of the state’s nearly 60,000-strong clean energy workforce. In fact, many of the newest, and most cutting-edge clean energy projects are taking place outside of the Twin Cities metro. For example, a project in Pelican Rapids will be the first integrated wind-solar hybrid power generation facility in the country. The project, developed and owned by Juhl Energy, will deliver low-cost, local energy to the approximately 27,000 members of the Lake Region Electric Cooperative.

Renewable development is surging in Minnesota. From 2013 to 2018, output from renewables jumped 37 percent, while emissions from the power sector have declined 34 percent since 2005. Minnesota has some of the best wind resources in the country, and we take advantage of it. Wind energy now represents 18 percent of total power generation in the state and is economical even without incentives. And in 2018 alone, over 100 new community solar gardens were added in the state. Minnesota now has more megawatts of community solar than any other state in the nation.

What is responsible for Minnesota’s explosive clean energy growth? Policy leadership has played a strong role in our success. For example, Minnesota’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard created an energy savings target for utilities and has saved ratepayers billions of dollars by using energy more efficiently and avoids the need for new power plants to be built.

Minnesota also shows no signs of slowing down in policy leadership. This month Gov. Tim Walz unveiled a new policy proposal that included a goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy in the electricity sector by 2050, a move that gives added weight to these findings.

This year’s Factbook shows that we are in the midst of a rapid and historic shift in how energy is being generated and consumed. It’s time for policymakers to once again unite to seize the massive economic opportunities provided by innovative, reliable and affordable clean energy solutions. Let’s prove why Minnesota is a clean energy leader — and work together to accelerate our progress towards a thriving, prosperous, and low-carbon future.

Mast is the executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. Jacobson is the president of The Business Council for Sustainable Energy.