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Best in the Midwest: MN on target to meet federal clean energy goal, group says

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Minnesota is already well on its way to meeting power plant carbon emission targets set out in the federal Clean Power Plan, according to one research group.

The final version of the plan was announced by President Barack Obama on Aug. 3, but research from the Union of Concerned Scientists released this week identifies Minnesota as being one of only 16 states that will not only meet their emission targets by 2030, but exceed them.

Minnesota is the only state in the Midwest on track to exceed its rate reductions after getting the jump on other states – with the UCS saying it has made "strong investments in efficiency and renewable energy."

The Clean Power Plan gives each state an emission level that its coal, oil or natural gas power plants must meet by 2022 (the interim target) and 2030 as part of efforts to fight climate change.

The target for Minnesota is reducing CO2 emissions to 1,213 pounds for every Net Megawatt/Hour generated at power stations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, down from the 2,033 pounds emitted in 2012.

Although it has said that Minnesota's power plants have to continue their work to reduce CO2 emissions, the EPA notes that progress already made means the federal targets are "reasonable and achievable" for the state.

Minnesota a 'clean energy leader,' but more work to be done

Steve Frenkel, the Midwest director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told MPR that Minnesota has a "history of being a clean energy leader," with the organization mentioning the state's renewable energy standards and energy conservation laws – as well as plans to retire some coal-burning power plants.

But he has urged lawmakers to not stop investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency across the state, saying: "Even though Minnesota is ahead of the curve today, it doesn't mean that is enough to address the climate crisis and climate problem that we're facing."

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and state Rep. Paul Thissen, writing in the Star Tribune, note Minnesota has benefited from clean energy laws implemented by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2007, which required utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025 – with every provider on track to meet its goals.

More recently in 2013, the state enacted a law allowing the creation of community solar gardens, boosting the state's solar power generation and allowing city apartment-dwellers to see a financial benefit from renewable energy.

The lawmakers added that power plants account for one-third of Minnesota's carbon emissions.

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