In early 2019, Fresh Energy was proud to stand alongside Governor Tim Walz as he announced the One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy. Among the first major policy initiatives of the Walz Administration, the package was built around a historic proposal to achieve 100% clean electricity statewide in Minnesota by 2050.
Despite broad stakeholder consensus and a robust effort by climate and clean energy advocates, none of the One Minnesota package made it to the Governor’s desk during the 2019 or 2020 legislative sessions. As we look ahead into the 2021 session of the Minnesota Legislature and beyond, it is clear that state leaders – from both parties and both legislative bodies – must make real progress on these and other policies to put Minnesota back on a leadership trajectory as the electricity market continues to demand innovative clean solutions like wind, solar, and batteries.
So what’s changed since 2019? In 2020, a study from the University of California-Berkeley reported a game-changing finding: 90% clean electricity no later than 2035 is not only feasible, but can be accomplished nationally while actually decreasing wholesale electricity costs. That’s a huge deal…and it’s imperative that policymakers center that new reality as we work toward our even larger goal of equitable carbon neutrality by mid-century.
As we build the electricity system of the future, the question now is less about what the end goal should be – a carbon-free electric grid – and more about how quickly we can get there. The UC-Berkeley study points to a critically important nuance: On the road to 100% electricity, the technically hardest portion to achieve will be the final 10% of the system…but when we achieve the final 10% is actually less critical than how quickly we can lock in the first 90%.
Accelerating Minnesota’s clean electricity transformation is at the heart of Fresh Energy’s vision for the 2021 session of the Minnesota Legislature. But we aren’t stopping there – here are just some of the priority policies we’re working on to transform Minnesota’s economy in ways that are ambitious, equitable, and achievable:
100% Clean Electricity
Our top overall priority for 2021, a statewide commitment to achieving 100% of our electricity from carbon-free sources would make Minnesota the eighth state – plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia – to make such a commitment. As momentum toward a fully decarbonized electric system grows nationally and abroad, it is imperative that Minnesota leaders deliver a market signal that our state is open for business and that we’re going to lead the electric sector transition in a way that is inclusive, ambitious, and equitable.
Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO Act)
A bipartisan initiative that barely fell short of final completion in 2020, the ECO Act is an update and modernization of Minnesota’s bedrock energy efficiency law, known as the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). We’ve said it for years: the cheapest electricity available is the electricity we never use. Maintaining a robust state policy framework that reflects current technology and market conditions is critical to keeping a lid on electricity costs as well as driving economic development and job growth throughout Minnesota’s economy. Ensuring that these outcomes are equitable and benefit all Minnesotans is a core focus of Fresh Energy’s advocacy in support of the ECO Act.
Clean Cars Minnesota and the Transition to Clean Transportation
Clean Cars Minnesota was announced by Governor Walz in September of 2019, leading to publication of a draft rule by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in December of 2020. Clean Cars Minnesota is an important part of the foundation for Minnesota’s strategy to reduce emissions from the transportation sector – currently the largest source of climate change pollution both in Minnesota and nationally. Of course, there is much more to do, including important public investments in incentives and infrastructure to support Minnesota’s transition to clean, electric transportation. Focusing on both supply and demand as we transition to cleaner, electric vehicles will be a major focus throughout 2021.
Take action on this issue! We implore all Minnesotans who want healthy air, clean water, progress on climate, and more consumer choice to speak up in the Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking process via our easy online comment submission tool.
In May/June of 2020, Minnesota communities were profoundly impacted by the killing of George Floyd and the civil uprising that followed. As communities continue the process of healing and recovery, energy and infrastructure can play a role in helping residents and businesses rebuild in a way that is more economically sustainable and that leads to better health and safety outcomes in neighborhoods that often suffer from the disproportionate absence of both. In June, Fresh Energy made a number of recommendations for how state leaders could invest in an equitable recovery, and in August the Minnesota Department of Commerce proposed legislation to appropriate money from the state’s Renewable Development Account (RDA) to support recovery work. Fresh Energy is eager to continue this conversation in 2021.
These are just a handful of the initiatives Fresh Energy be working on throughout the 2021 session. Check back often for updates on these and other policies as we work toward an equitable carbon-neutral Minnesota economy by midcentury.
Stay tuned to “Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast” in the coming days for a conversation with J. Drake Hamilton and legislators who are leading the charge on 100% clean electricity. You can also listen to the December recording for a discussion between Fresh Energy’s Executive Director Michael Noble, Director of Public Affairs Justin Fay, and Policy and Public Affairs Associate Anna Johnson about our plans and expectations for the 2021 session of the Minnesota Legislature.