Bipartisan agreement on shared energy priorities in the Minnesota legislature

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The following webinar recap is based on “The 2020 election & what clean energy businesses need to know” event held by Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) on December 10, 2020 at 1 PM CST. The slides are available for review but there are no recordings of the event. 45 attendees joined the webinar to hear from Benjamin Stafford, CEEM’s Director of Government Affairs, Representative Patty Acomb (DFL - Minnetonka) and Senator David Senjem (R - Rochester). 

Impacts of the 2020 election results on clean energy businesses

Federal election results

  • Biden/Harris win the 2020 presidential election

    • This looks to have a large impact on the clean energy industry as they have spoken about clean energy and climate change in campaign materials and during debates

    • Climate change is listed as a top priority on their transition website

    • They are also likely to have stimulus packages that focus partly on boosting the clean energy industry

  • Minnesota’s House delegation is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats with Michelle Fischbach (R) winning C.D. 7.

  • Minnesota’s Senate delegation remains the same with two returning clean energy champions.

State election results

  • Minnesota remains the only divided Legislature in the country. 

  • Clean energy issues will need bipartisan support to pass in the coming session.

“People expect changes now,” says Representative Patty Acomb

Representative Patty Acomb (DFL - Minnetonka), Chair of the House Climate Action Caucus joined the meeting to talk about her role in moving clean energy forward in Minnesota. She started by mentioning that she personally is looking at installing a rooftop solar system on her home with CEEM-member All Energy Solar. 

She went on to talk about the work of the House Climate Action Caucus and their goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota by 45 percent by 2030. She emphasized that long-term goals are important, but people expect action now and that short-term goals are necessary to avoid irreparable damage to the state of Minnesota.

She added that she is excited to collaborate with the Republican-led Senate to find ways to advance clean energy in Minnesota and suggested utilizing bonding money or the Renewable Development Account to fund projects. She is also eager to speak with more industry leaders to solve their issues such as interconnection problems, fees and the size of solar projects in certain areas of the state. 

“I believe in a clean energy future and what it can do for our state,” says Senator David Senjem.

Senator David Senjem (R - Rochester), Chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee joined the webinar to give his remarks about clean energy and its role in Minnesota’s future. Senator Senjem began his remarks by expressing his excitement to have received his committee chair appointment. He believes that energy is an exciting and volatile market and he is passionate about advancing clean energy in Minnesota and bringing his colleagues along the path with him.

Sen. Senjem shared that energy used to be a legacy industry but is now full of emerging technologies that can lead to clean and green communities going forward. Senator Senjem was part of an energy policy exchange program in Germany where he saw the power of clean energy in action. Germany is robustly involved with clean energy and their example provided the Senator with the real-life example needed to convince him of the possibility that a clean energy future brings along a clean energy economy. 

Senator Senjem spoke about the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act (ECO) that has bipartisan support and how he would like to see that passed early in the 2021 session. He also stressed the importance of the industry and members of the public making appointments to talk to their legislators about clean energy and informing them how they can help advance the industry through their work at the Capitol.

How will Minnesota’s budget impact clean energy progress in 2021?

Representative Acomb: 

Representative Acomb expressed that while this will be a challenging year due to the pandemic and the budget, legislators simply cannot ignore the rest of the state. With a virtual session, Representative Acomb expects difficulty for new legislators to develop relationships and learn the processes, but energy is certainly still a priority for members of the House Climate Action Caucus and to the people of our state. 

Senator Senjem: 

Senator Senjem said that budgets can be volatile but that he cannot forget about the legislative agenda just because of the budget. Members of his committee have big appetites to moving clean energy forward in the state. His bill, Clean Energy First along with the ECO Act, doesn’t impact the budget and should be focused on as well as other policy areas, like building codes, that can make an impact outside the parameters of the budget. 

How can we advance clean energy in Minnesota beyond the traditional wind and solar models?

Representative Acomb: 

Representative Acomb stressed the importance of investing in science and identifying emerging technologies. She was particularly intrigued by the opportunities of battery storage and the ability to combine that with electric buses. 

Senator Senjem: 

Senator Senjem highlighted a focus on research and development from the University of Minnesota as well as private industry advances with the Renewable Development Account as well as emerging technologies such as hydrogen, ammonia and renewable natural gas. 

Next steps for Clean Energy Economy MN

Clean Energy Economy MN will continue working across industries and between the aisle to advance the clean energy economy in Minnesota. We recently released our 2021 policy priorities which will be the focus of our work at the Capitol next year.