Minnesota’s 100% clean electricity bill explained

By |

Our elected leaders at the Minnesota Legislature have identified climate as a policy priority this legislative session are making big moves to advance clean energy and climate legislation that will help meet Minnesota’s urgent emissions reduction goals.

At the top of the list is the 100% clean electricity bill, which has passed through the Minnesota House and Senate and is now on the desk of Governor Tim Walz to be signed into law. The bill was first proposed in 2019 and has since been updated to be more ambitious, robust, and in alignment with climate science and technology advancements. Click here to thank your legislators who voted “yes” on 100% and register to join Fresh Energy staff on Monday, February 6 for a webinar to dig into the bill, its journey, and more.

What’s in the 100% bill?

The 100% clean electricity bill (Senate File 4 and House File 7) would commit all utilities to provide their Minnesota customers with 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, with reporting on benchmarks every five years. First introduced in 2019, the bill has since been updated and modified a few times to be more ambitious, robust, and in alignment with climate science and technology advancements. “Carbon-free energy” mentioned in the bill can be produced by renewable sources that include solar, wind, hydroelectric, as well as other carbon-free generation sources like nuclear power.

Among other things, the bill will also help encourage utilities to locate new clean energy facilities in communities where fossil-fuel plants are closing, do more to protect environmental justice communities, and work to diversify the utility’s workforce.

Why is 100% important? 

It’s no secret that Minnesota is not on track to meet our statutory goal of reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. But the good news is that two-thirds of Minnesotans support 100% as a means to achieve this goal and more. 100% will get us back on track to meet our Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA) goals and the internationally recognized IPCC goals. 

Clean power generation is the foundation of a carbon-neutral economy. As the energy transition continues and we electrify everything that we can—like home heating, transportation, and more, it’s crucial that the electricity we’re using comes from carbon-free and renewable energy sources like wind and solar. To that end, the 100% bill is a foundational piece of equitable economy-wide decarbonization. 

In addition to what the science tells us, the 100% clean electricity bill advances racial, gender, and economic fairness by strengthening the accountability mechanisms used to enforce the renewable energy and carbon-free standards.  

So, the 100% bill is about more than clean electricity?

100% clean electricity by 2040 is the central pillar of this bill, but the impacts will be economy wide and do more than benefit climate alone. It is anticipated that, among other things, 100% will:

  • create new family-supporting jobs within Minnesota’s clean energy sector and accelerate our growing clean energy industry.
  • lessen the impacts and lower the human costs of climate change by cleaning up the air we breathe. The Minnesota Department of Health found in its Life and Breath report that up to 10% of early deaths are in part due to fine particulate pollution.
  • help control the cost of electricity bills by ending our dependence on fossil fuel as new wind and solar energy facilities continue to be less expensive to operate than the cheapest existing coal-fired power plants.

Are we going out on a limb here?

Nope! Minnesota will join a growing cohort of states prioritizing their communities, natural environment, equity, health, and more by setting clean electricity generation goals. Already 51% of Americans live in a state that have committed to 100% clean electricity. Seventeen states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. have committed to 100% clean electricity and 29 states, three U.S. territories, and Washington D.C. have all enacted renewable energy standards—the first of which was Iowa back in 1983!

But is it doable?

You betcha. The 100% clean electricity bill will make it easier to site, interconnect, and operate wind and solar facilities. And Minnesota utilities are already making major progress on clean electricity to boot! Every time Minnesotans and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission set a goalpost for our utilities to make more progress on clean energy goals, they show us what they can achieve and so much more.

Major Minnesota utilities like Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power are already on the path to 100% clean energy and 57% of Minnesotans are served by one of these utilities. Minnesota utilities are

  • Our state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, became the first in the country to commit itself to 100% clean electricity, which it plans to reach by 2050.
  • Minnesota Power is planning to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050, 70% renewable energy by 2030, and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035.
  • Great River Energy is planning to achieve an 80% greenhouse gas reduction goal by 2032 by using more than 50% renewable energy by 2027.
  • Rochester Public Utilities has committed to a goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • The Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) has committed to a goal of being 80% carbon-free by 2030.

What’s next for the bill?

The 100% clean electricity bill gathered a large following at the Minnesota State Capitol and beyond. The lead author on the Senate version of the bill is Senator Nick Frentz and the lead author on the House version of the bill is Majority Leader Jamie Long—both of whom have been supporters of advancing clean energy and climate legislation throughout their tenures at the legislature.

In January 2023, the 100% clean electricity bill made its way through the Senate Energy, Utilities, Environment, and Climate Committee and the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. The bill passed the Minnesota House on January 26 and the Minnesota Senate on February 2. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Tim Walz to be signed into law.

Fresh Energy applauds members of the Minnesota House and Senate who voted “yes” to pass the 100% clean electricity bill and the Minnesota utilities, our partners in labor, energy and climate advocates, and all Minnesotans who helped make this bill a reality.

Recording Archive and Schedule

  • The 100% clean electricity bill (HF7) was heard in the 2023-2024 House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee on Wednesday, January 18, and was passed out of committee to the House floor. Fresh Energy’s Michael Noble provided testimony. View the recording.
  • The 100% clean electricity bill (SF4) was first heard in the 2023-2024 Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, Environment, and Climate chaired by Senator Nick Frentz on Monday, January 23. Fresh Energy’s Michael Noble provided testimony. View the recording.
  • The 100% bill (SF4) was heard on Wednesday, January 25 at 12:30 p.m. in the Senate Energy, Utilities, Environment, and Climate Committee, chaired by Senator Nick Frentz, and was passed out of committee to the Senate floor. View the recording.
  • The 100% bill (HF7) passed a house House floor vote on January 26. Read Fresh Energy’s statement.
  • The 100% bill will be heard on the Senate floor on February 2. The Senate will be in Session at 11 a.m. Tune in here.

Check out our webinar!

You can tune into our webinar from February 6, 2023, below on YouTube or by streaming the audio on Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast available on your favorite podcasting app.

Webinar: Minnesota’s 100% Clean Electricity Bill Explained