Calling climate change an "existential threat," Gov. Tim Walz announced plans on Monday for Minnesota to generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050.
Walz wants Minnesota to expand the work that had already started in 2007, when the Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act was signed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, targeting 25 percent renewable energy for the state by 2025.
That landmark was already achieved by the end of 2017, and now Walz has his sights set on loftier ambitions by making Minnesota only the third state (after California and Hawaii) to aim for 100 percent clean energy as part of the continued fight against climate change.
He notes that Xcel Energy, Minnesota's biggest utility, has already pledged to go 100 percent carbon-free by 2050, and now wants the state's other electricity providers to follow suit.
Under his proposal, all electric utilities would be required to use only carbon-free energy sources by 2050, but will be allowed to choose "how and what pace" they achieve that standard.
Assistance would be given to workers and communities affected by the transition, programs would be put in place to keep energy affordable, while local jobs and wages would be prioritized for new clean energy projects.
The policy would stipulate that any utility planning to replace or add new power generation from here on out "must prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels."
But there's a caveat in Walz's plan, which states it would allow for fossil fuel-based power "only if needed to ensure reliable, affordable electricity."
"Climate change is an existential threat," said Walz. "We must take immediate action. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will. That is why I am proud to announce a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100% clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2050.
"These proposals would put us at the forefront of addressing climate change. Minnesota will pioneer the green energy economy—creating jobs while protecting our planet for generations to come."
Xcel Energy has been leading the way among U.S. utilities in the drive for renewable energy, previously telling BMTN that in the long-term, the shift to wind and solar power will become more economical than the continued burning of fossil fuels.
It has announced that it will be decommissioning two of its coal-fired plants at Sherco in Becker in 2023 and 2026 as it pushes ahead with its renewable energy plans, though to cover some of the lost energy generation in the meantime, it wants to build a 750MW natural gas plant at the site instead.
Meanwhile, another major Minnesota employer, 3M, pledged that all energy used at its Maplewood facility would come from clean solar and wind energy as of this past Friday, using Xcel-run wind and solar farms in Minnesota for its electricity supply.