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Going green: The state Capitol will use more renewable energy

The Minnesota State Capitol is going greener.

Under a new partnership with Xcel Energy, one-third of the newly renovated state Capitol’s energy will eventually come from renewable sources like solar and wind, according to a news release.

The partnership – called the Renewable Connect Government Pilot Program – still has to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission. However, the Odell Wind Farm in southern Minnesota and the North Star Solar Project in the eastern part of the state have already committed to the project.

“Transitioning Minnesota to renewable energy is good for our health, environment, and economy. Gov. Dayton and I are committed to ensuring state government does its part to lead by example,” Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in the release. “Our clean energy industry already supports 54,000 jobs and is expected to add 2,300 this year alone.”

Pending the Public Utilities Commission approval, the initiative could be expanded to other city and county buildings.

The government program is an addition to Xcel’s Renewable Connect, which allows customers to receive some or all of their energy from renewable sources. The program was proposed in 2015, but is still waiting for approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, the release says.

According to the Star Tribune, after reviewing the plans and taking public comment, the Public Utilities Commission will probably not consider the proposal until January or February of next year.

The paper also reported the annual energy bill for the Capitol building and its surrounding office buildings is usually about $5 million. The Xcel agreement would save the state around $100,000.

Minnesota isn’t the first state to take a step like this. According to PV Magazine, California announced last year its Capitol buildings will eventually run 100 percent on renewable energy.

The bigger picture

This initiative is part of bigger goals Minnesota and Xcel have in terms of renewable energy. Currently, several countries and 29 states plus the District of Columbia have what’s referred to as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

The RPS is basically a goal to use a certain percentage of renewable energy sources by a certain year. For example, Minnesota’s goal is to use renewable sources for 25 percent of its energy by 2025.

Minnesota’s 25 percent goal is higher than many. A handful of states have a RPS of 15 percent by either 2015 or 2020, while some states have much higher goals: California wants to use 50 percent of renewable energy by 2030, while Hawaii wants to eventually be 100 percent renewable by 2070, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

Xcel Energy also has its personal goals for each state that in provides energy to. According to its corporate responsibility report, the RPS for Minnesota is to use 30 percent of renewables by 2020, with at least 24 percent of sales from wind and no more than 1 percent of sales from solar.

The company’s goal for Colorado is also at 30 percent, while the goals for Michigan, the Dakotas and Wisconsin are just 10 percent. Xcel’s RPS for New Mexico is 20 percent while in Texas it is just 3 percent.

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