Renewable energy has become a hot topic in America, where some people resist the transition from fossil fuels while others embrace it. But one state that is making remarkable progress in this area is Minnesota, which has adopted several policies to promote solar, energy storage, microgrids, and net zero buildings.
Minnesota has a goal to achieve 100% carbon free electricity and 55% renewable electricity by 2040, which would make it one of the most ambitious states in the country. It also has a law that requires utilities to offer community solar programs, which allow customers to subscribe to a portion of a solar project and receive credits on their bills.
The state has also passed the Clean Energy And Efficient Buildings act, which will provide up to $80 million in incentives for clean energy projects. “It’s a new era for solar and energy storage in Minnesota,” said MnSEIA’s executive director Logan O’Grady. “The policies created in this Legislative Session will set off a historic boom for clean energy in our state. It’s a huge signal to the country that Minnesota is serious about solar and that we’re a great market to do business in.”
The benefits of renewable energy are not only environmental, but also economic and social. According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, renewable energy can bring more than $1.2 billion in public health savings by 2040, as well as almost $5 billion in net labor income and an 87% drop in heat-trapping emissions from the power sector.
Renewable energy can also help address the energy and housing inequities that affect low-income and minority communities, who have been disproportionately exposed to fossil fuel pollution and high energy costs. “To advance racial and economic justice in the transition to clean energy, Minnesota policymakers must ensure that traditionally excluded groups—including Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, and low-income communities—and fossil fuel–dependent workers have power in decisionmaking and receive direct benefits from the transition,” the report said.
Of course, not everyone is on board with the renewable energy revolution. The Texas freeze in February 2021 sparked a false blame game on renewable energy, which only accounted for a small fraction of the power outages. Some politicians and pundits tried to use the crisis to discredit renewable energy and promote fossil fuels, even though the latter were more responsible for the grid failure.
But Minnesota is not deterred by such misinformation. It is showing the rest of the country how renewable energy can be a win-win solution for the climate, the economy, and the people. As Texas state representative Gina Hinojosa said after the freeze: “This is not going to be our last rodeo with something like this. We need better planning. And I think now that we know that climate change is real and it’s causing these disastrous effects throughout our country we need to start planning for more renewable energy.”
– Renewable Energy Becomes A Flash Point In America’s Culture Wars, CleanTechnica, May 29, 2023
– Minnesota Renewable Energy, Minnesota Department of Commerce, January 15, 2021
– On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables for Minnesota, Union of Concerned Scientists, May 2023
– Minnesota pledges 100 percent carbon-free energy. Is it possible?, MPR News, March 7, 2019