Minnesota’s 100% clean electricity bill could start a new era for climate action in the state

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This legislative session, Minnesota state leaders wasted no time getting to work on a strong clean electricity bill that achieves 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, reduces health-harming air pollution, builds more good-paying jobs and sets the stage for economy-wide, climate action.

Pro-climate leaders have pushed for years to reclaim Minnesota’s early lead on climate action, when it passed the strongest renewable energy standard in the country back in 2007. Now, with pro-climate trifectas across the state’s Senate, House and governor’s office, as well as strong voter support for climate action, they have a major opportunity — and a mandate to get it done.

Here’s why legislators and Governor Waltz should seize this moment to get Minnesota on the path to 100% clean electricity and leverage this policy to put in place strong limits on climate pollution capable of meeting the state’s climate goals.

How the bill will ramp up clean energy

The 100% clean electricity bill currently being considered in the Minnesota legislature charts a path to fully decarbonizing the electric grid by 2040. More specifically, it would require electric utilities to provide their customers with 80% carbon-free electricity by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040.

When it comes to addressing climate change, accelerating the transition to 100% clean electricity supply is critical for two reasons:

  1. Clean energy reduces near-term emissions. Studies by EDF and others have consistently shown that deep emissions reductions from the power sector are the fastest way to reduce overall emissions this decade, and critical for reaching our national commitment of a 50-52% reduction in economy-wide emissions. Moreover, achieving earlier reductions in the power sector means less cumulative climate pollution gets added to the atmosphere over time — a critical metric that governs the extent of long-term climate impacts.
  2. Clean power forms the backbone of a clean economy. It not only helps reduce climate pollution from electricity, but also unlocks reductions from other sectors, such as transportation and buildings, that will increasingly rely on clean electricity.

These two things mean that focusing on reducing emissions from electricity — as the 100% bill does — is an essential part of the path to a safer and healthier future. To continue this momentum lawmakers should also pass policies that target climate pollution across the economy for Minnesota to regain its climate leadership and ensure a safer future for the state.

Unlocking the electricity bill savings, jobs and health benefits that Minnesotans want

With new clean energy tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act flowing into the state in 2023, there’s never been a better time to invest in low-cost clean electricity resources like solar, wind and battery storage. Utilities are already recognizing the major shift in clean electricity costs resulting from the law – for example, Michigan’s DTE Energy has stated they expect new federal incentives could generate an estimated $500 million in savings for ratepayers over 20 years. A 100% clean electricity law would give utilities providing power to Minnesotans more reason to take full advantage of these tax credits and help maximize savings for their customers.

The buildout required to meet the law’s targets would also grow the state’s clean energy economy, which boasts 58,000 energy efficiency and clean energy jobs. This is a huge benefit Minnesota voters understand and are eager to capture: polling commissioned by EDF Action found that large majorities of Minnesota voters believe that clean energy creates quality jobs and strengthens the state’s economy. The bill also requires utilities to undertake efforts to retain and retrain workers at coal or natural gas plants that will be phased out.

Lowering the amount of coal and natural gas powering the grid will also reduce harmful air pollutants, like soot and smog, that wreak havoc on our health and disproportionately burden communities of color and low-income communities. The bill calls for reducing air pollution statewide, particularly in communities historically subject to harmful air pollution and other environmental injustice.

Setting the stage for strong pollution limits that can meet the state’s goals

A clean electricity law would mark an important step forward on Minnesota’s climate goals, and it could set the stage for adoption of additional laws and regulations capable of securing climate pollution reductions across other sectors of the economy. Minnesota re-committed to reducing its climate pollution at least 30% below 2005 levels by 2025 through an Executive Order Gov Waltz signed in 2019. As part of its membership in the U.S. Climate Alliance, the state is committed to reducing climate pollution 50-52% by 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. However, previous analysis by EDF revealed that the state is off-track to meet its 2025 target — even by 2030.

To ensure that Minnesota will correct course and meet its climate goals when it promised, lawmakers should use the momentum being built by the 100% law to consider additional legislation capable of limiting pollution in line with its goals. Several states, including Washington, Oregon, California and the 12 states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, have some form of pollution limits currently in place. Additional climate legislation to reduce emissions in other sectors, such as establishing a limit on climate pollution that declines every year and directing state agencies to establish firm, enforceable regulations to meet those limits, would maximize the certainty of reducing emissions in line with what we know climate science tells us is required. This approach is an ideal complement to other climate policies, like clean electricity targets and additional sector- or technology-specific policies the legislature and Governor should consider because it supercharges progress toward a clean economy and it provides a backstop that ensures Minnesota’s climate goals are met.

Minnesota lawmakers are coming out the gate this legislative session with a strong clean electricity bill that is an essential step for getting the state on the right track to secure healthier communities, bolster its economy and lock-in energy savings for households.

2023 could mark a new era for bold climate action in Minnesota.

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