Minnesota energy has begun a new chapter.
Minnesota has taken a first step in outlining the next big leap forward in the state's sustainable energy future. Pushed by more than 60 environmental, labor, business, youth, and faith groups, the jobs omnibus bill -- expected to be signed by Governor Mark Dayton -- includes a Clean Energy and Jobs package that sets a standard of 1.5 percent solar by 2020 with a broader goal of reaching 10 percent by 2030. This is a great start for a state that is in position to lead the Midwest into the clean-energy economy.
I remember seeing pictures earlier this month of people filling the halls of the Capitol in St. Paul to demand phasing out coal and bringing in clean energy jobs. Legislators, impressed by the turnout, stopped in the rotunda to express their support. The governor even put a picture of the rally on his Facebook page.
Retiring coal is key to solving climate disruption and investing in healthy communities. But just as important is the transition to clean energy. Minnesota's solar legislation will propel the state's investment in energy innovation, generate jobs, and build on the existing goal of reaching 25 percent renewables by 2025. This new standard includes:
- An estimated 450 megawatts of new solar by 2020 added to the existing 13 MW in the state.
- Community-shared solar. Utilities will offer solar "subscriptions" to anyone who wants to invest in an off-site project and receive credits on their energy bill. This is perfect for Minnesotans who rent or have shady roofs.
- A solar tariff. Minnesota will be one of the first states in the country to adopt a tariff that will pay homeowners who generate and pump clean energy back into the grid.
- The commission of a study to explore how Minnesota can achieve an energy system free of burning fossil fuels over the next several decades.
Critics have complained that this will increase rates. But they conveniently overlook the fact that the cost of Big Coal has sharply increased while solar and other renewables have been steadily getting cheaper. This is one reason why the vast majority of Minnesotans support more wind and solar. They are tired of polluters calling the shots. That's why their representatives have taken action by paving the way for a bright energy future.