Minnesota Announces Plan To Achieve 100% Clean Energy by 2050

Minnesota wants to achieve 100% Clean energy though the plan is short on specifics of how to meet that target.

Minnesota governor Tim Walz has set an ambitious goal on Monday for the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. The concept of creating a 100 percent clean electricity system only recently went from being fringe to mainstream.

Hawaii was the first U.S. state to pursue a 100 percent agenda. Then in 2018, California passed legislation to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2045, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order calling for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed suit in January with an executive order for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. Soon after in 2019, the state of Illinois joined the ante against fossils in the US.

“We have the capacity to put forward a plan that will change not only Minnesota’s future but the world’s future,” the Democratic governor Walz said at a news conference.

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Environmental and climate change groups, several of which were represented at the announcement, welcomed the governor’s proposals. Skeptics, however, add that the plan bets on unproven technology that will be risky and expensive.

Walz said his clean energy proposals would put Minnesota at the forefront of addressing climate change while ensuring “reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity.” He said his proposal is different from some other states’ approaches because it involves partnering with utilities that have also set ambitious goals for reducing their carbon emissions to zero. He said each utility would have the flexibility to choose how and at what pace it meets the standard.

Minnesota still gets most of its electricity from coal-fired plants but its major utilities are in the process of retiring some large, older coal plants and replacing the capacity with natural gas plants, which produce less carbon dioxide than coal plants, and adding wind and solar farms. The state energy mix was 95 percent coal just 15 years ago, but it has retired seven of its nine coal units since then while increasing its mix of renewables — wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass — to 30 percent today with a target of 45 percent by 2025.

Minnesota’s largest electrical utility, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, announced a similar goal a few days earlier, of carbon-free electricity by 2050 through expanded investments in wind and solar power, and keeping its Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants, which went online in the early 1970s, operating until their licenses expire in the 2030s.

Last year, the Minneapolis-based utility cut its carbon emissions 3 percent below 2017 and 38 percent from 2005 levels. Xcel’s more immediate goal is an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. The company is adding wind, solar and lower-emitting natural gas-fired generation while retiring coal plants. The company added that smaller reactors could be part of its future mix. Walz’s plan would count nuclear as clean energy, Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said.

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