Fresh Energy Statement: Minnesota Power Announces Commitment to 100% Carbon-Free Electricity; Exiting Coal by 2035

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On January 12, 2021, Minnesota Power announced its new vision for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, including interim targets of 70% renewable power by 2030 and exiting coal by 2035. Minnesota Power is one of Minnesota’s three investor-owned utilities and serves approximately 145,000 customers in northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth and Minnesota’s iron mines.

“Minnesota Power’s announcement is a huge step forward that will result in significant carbon reduction, cost savings, and is a clear statement that a carbon-free electricity system is the destination,” said Allen Gleckner, Lead Director, Clean Electricity at Fresh Energy. “However, the steps to get there and the investments made along the way are critical. We look forward to digging into the details of Minnesota Power’s plan and finding a path that does not include new fossil fuel investments, and that reliably and affordably reduces carbon at the pace science demands.” 

As part of its plan, Minnesota Power announced retirement dates for its two remaining coal units at Boswell Energy Center, Unit 3 by 2030 and Unit 4 by 2035. Starting this year, Unit 3 will also be moved to economic operations, running only when the electricity is needed for reliability or market demand. This change will significantly reduce the use of Unit 3 and its carbon emissions, with substantial savings for Minnesota Power customers.

“This historic announcement from Minnesota Power means that all coal plants that operate within Minnesota state lines have a planned retirement date, and that is cause for major celebration,” said J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy. “We applaud Minnesota Power’s new vision and look forward to working with other utilities and electric cooperatives in the region to secure retirement dates for all coal plants in the Midwest that serve Minnesota customers.” 

“Minnesota Power’s decision to move Boswell Unit 3 to economic dispatch is a win-win for customers and the environment,” said Isabel Ricker, Senior Policy Associate, Clean Electricity at Fresh Energy. “We estimate this move will reduce carbon emissions by 9 to 14 million tons by the end of the decade while saving Minnesota Power customers millions in fuel and operational costs.” 

The announcement also includes commitments to add 400MW of new wind and solar, as well as to work collaboratively with employees and the Cohasset and regional communities throughout the transition.  Fresh Energy recognizes the vital role that the Boswell Energy Center plays in the regional economy and is committed to working with Minnesota Power and stakeholders to ensure both an equitable transition for impacted communities and that clean energy investments create high-quality jobs for local workers. 

Fresh Energy set a goal in 2004 to aggressively push for closure of Minnesota coal plants. We’re pleased to see this work come to fruition.

Fresh Energy is dedicated to speeding Minnesota’s transition to an equitable carbon-neutral economy, which requires fully decarbonizing Minnesota’s electricity as soon as possible. Minnesota Power’s announcement comes in advance of its Integrated Resource Plan, to be filed on February 1, 2021, with the Public Utilities Commission. Fresh Energy and partners will be working in that process to secure ambitious carbon reduction without new investments in fossil fuel generation.