Minnesota’s transportation system needs urgent investment to support economic vitality, improve quality of life, and reduce dependence on expensive oil. Fresh Energy’s top priority for the legislative session is securing the funding needed to construct a complete Twin Cities transit network within 12 years. This includes new light rail and bus rapid transit in addition to improved and expanded local bus service and new walking and biking connections. This system will not only reduce emissions and provide affordable transportation options for families facing erratic gas prices, it will also reduce congestion and help attract new businesses to Minnesota. There is a growing understanding from the business community that transit is essential for the Twin Cities—and we need to get it done now. Fresh Energy is supporting a local sales tax (or combination of other sources) that would raise approximately $300 million a year to build and operate the expanded system.
Making the most of renewable energy keeps energy dollars in Minnesota, provides critical revenue for rural communities and farmers, and creates new manufacturing jobs. That’s why a law requiring Minnesota’s utilities to generate at least 25 percent of their power using renewable sources by 2025 (30 percent by 2020 for Xcel Energy) was passed with broad bipartisan support in 2007. In 2011 alone, more than 2,000 jobs could be attributed to Minnesota’s wind development, wind project owners paid more than $7.6 million in property taxes, and developers paid more than $8 million in lease payments to landowners. With such a successful track record in place, Fresh Energy will work to increase Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard to create additional jobs, boost local economic development, and protect Minnesota’s environment.
Minnesota has an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in place that requires utilities to save one percent of their energy every year, and encourages them to achieve a 1.5 percent annual savings. Recent analysis shows that many utilities are making impressive progress towards these goals, saving consumers money in the process. But we can certainly do more. Fresh Energy will work to bolster the EERS by requiring better accountability and higher performance.
Buildings consume a lot of energy. The more than five million commercial buildings and 115 million residential households in the United States consume approximately 40 percent of the nation’s total energy and 70 percent of its electricity. Fresh Energy will work to improve the efficiency of Minnesota’s buildings in a variety of ways. This may include increasing the state’s energy efficiency goals for buildings, facilitating funding and accessibility for energy efficiency improvements, improving baseline energy efficiency standards for buildings, or allowing public access to information about how much energy Minnesota’s buildings use.
Minnesota’s solar potential exceeds that of well-established solar markets like Germany, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. While the state’s current renewable electricity standard has been widely successful in boosting renewable energy production without increasing electricity rates, nearly all of it has been wind. To harness Minnesota’s true potential, we need to create a market in which solar can thrive. Fresh Energy will work with allies, partners and state leaders to establish a goal of 10 percent electricity from solar by 2030. This will bring jobs and investment to our state, reduce our reliance on imported fossil and nuclear fuels, and give people and businesses more control over their electricity use. At the same time, Fresh Energy is working to identify ways to reduce the market barriers and project-level costs associated with installing on-site solar power generation.
In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Next Generation Energy Act to leverage Minnesota’s renewable energy resources and boost local energy production. The act also established state- and economy-wide science-based carbon reduction goals that call for at least 15 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, 30 percent reductions by 2025, and 80 percent reductions by 2050 (from a 2005 baseline). But Minnesota has not yet adopted a comprehensive plan that will allow us to achieve them. Fresh Energy will pursue the adoption of a workable plan to get Minnesota back on track.