In 2007, a broad coalition made up of entrepreneurs, businesses, labor, environmentalists, concerned citizens, and legislators came together to pass a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) for Minnesota. That historic legislation required 25% of our electricity come from renewables such as wind, solar, and biomass resources. The bill passed the Minnesota House and Senate with only 13 of 201 legislators voting against it. Governor Pawlenty signed the bill into law and Minnesota became a national clean energy leader.
The current Renewable Energy Standard has been a huge success and has created thousands of clean energy jobs in our state. Employment in clean energy sectors reached 15,300 in 2014. Clean energy employment in Minnesota surged 78% between January 2000 and the first quarter of 2014, growing steadily through the recession. The RES has resulted in nearly $9.4 million in wind energy production tax revenue that is paid directly to counties, primarily in Greater Minnesota and land use agreements have a generated millions of dollars of revenue for Minnesota farmers. Many utilities are already several years ahead of schedule in meeting the 2007 RES requirements. Despite these impressive numbers, Minnesota is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
A few weeks ago, I introduced legislation that would increase the existing RES to 40% by 2030. Currently, we get 15% of our energy from renewables, but we are using only 1% of our wind potential. In addition, compliance with Minnesota’s existing RES has been affordable. The state’s largest 3 utilities, representing 80% of Minnesota’s retail electricity sales, reported little impact on wages as a result of their renewable energy investments through 2012. As wind and solar prices have dropped, several utilities have even reported savings in some years, particularly when natural gas prices have spiked.
Raising the RES is beneficial to the economy, creates jobs, reduces Minnesota’s reliance on imported electricity, benefits public health, and helps preserve our precious earth and its resources. We are on the right trajectory to meet those goals established nearly 8 years ago. The rules and the structure are already in place. Increasing our renewable energy standard will send us on our way to a truly, clean, reliable, and sustainable energy future.