Clean energy conversations with Minnesota’s congressional offices

November 15, 2023
In the midst of the chaotic US House Speaker elections this fall - CEEM’s policy team visited Washington D.C. to meet with Minnesota Congressional staff. They also co-hosted a Minnesota Energy Briefing with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) to discuss the economic impact of clean energy growth in Minnesota.

Future of Advanced Biofuels

In the midst of the chaotic US House Speaker elections this fall – CEEM’s policy team visited Washington D.C. to meet with Minnesota Congressional staff. They also co-hosted a Minnesota Energy Briefing with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) to discuss the economic impact of clean energy growth in Minnesota. These presentations are an excellent opportunity to provide up-to-date clean energy jobs numbers as well as updates on Minnesota’s decarbonization process in the electricity sector.

The policy team was successful in scheduling meetings with staff from both Senate offices and 5 of the 8 Congressional District offices. Each of these meetings highlighted robust conversation across a variety of energy issues in Minnesota.

The 2023 expiration of the five-year Farm Bill was the most frequently discussed topic as Congress works diligently to draft a new version of the bill. CEEM was persistent in offering context on the importance of protecting USDA funding in the upcoming Farm Bill. Advanced biofuels were also emphasized thanks to recent developments with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) opportunities announced by the Biden Administration with the Federal Aviation Administration in September.

The Administration announced an investment of $245 million in SAF infrastructure projects to help achieve net-zero emissions goals from aviation. Congressional offices are supportive of growing the SAF market with many expressing a need for the adoption of the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies Model, also known as the GREET model, as a similar methodology to the SAF tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

 

CEEM Government Affairs team with Executive Director at the U.S. Capitol
CEEM team is joined by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Discussing the potential of hydrogen

The recent announcement from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Biden Administration investing up to $7 billion for regional clean hydrogen hubs across America were also highlighted in our meetings as congressional offices navigate to better understand the hydrogen market. The Heartland Hydrogen Hub, to be located in Minnesota, also sparked interests among staffers because of the potential it will bring to green ammonia fertilizer production in the agricultural industry.

Talking transmission

With high-voltage transmission lines at capacity across the country, Congressional offices are eager to develop federal solutions to mitigate issues with transmission. CEEM provided each office with a transmission one-pager handout highlighting the benefits of how upgraded transmission lines will benefit the economy and provide energy advancements for the country. Congressional offices have expressed that although there are really great proposals to resolve the issue, each of the proposals address a different issue which creates challenges in finding a good pathway to fix the nationwide transmission problem. Staffers in the office have pointed out that the transmission proposals fall into three buckets: cost allocation, interregional transmission, and backstop siting authority.

CEEM reiterated its position that all of MISO’s recent Tranche 1 transmission line proposals have on average a 3:1 return on investment. Admittedly, the initial investment in transmission does come with a hefty price tag, to the tune of around $2.5 billion for the new lines in the Dakotas and Minnesota. But the expected return on that investment is over $7 billion. Some of that comes from the avoidance of having to build new power generating capacity. It’s an issue CEEM is committed to working through and educating state and federal lawmakers on as transmission planning works its way through the regulatory and permitting process.

Permitting reform and other decarbonization solutions

CEEM team meets with Sen. Smith office staff (Congressional Meeting with Senator Tina Smith's Office L-R: Gregg Mast, Christopher Jackson, Sindhu Nathan, George Damian, and Chandra Her)
Congressional Meeting with Representative Michelle Fischbach (CD 7) and Office L-R: Gregg Mast, Chandra Her, George Damian, and Rep. Fischbach

Although the debt ceiling negotiations started some conversations around permit reform early last summer, the issue continues to remain a top priority for Congress as they navigate to find a bipartisan compromise. In our meetings, Minnesota Congressional Offices expressed it would be helpful to know specifically what causes permitting delays in order to streamline the permitting process and create effective permit reform. Staffers also referenced anaerobic digestion (AD) siting and permitting issues constituents and businesses are experiencing, specifically for rural dairy farms and AD facilities in Minnesota. Expansion of anaerobic digestion continues to be a challenge because of environmental concerns even though it is a highly resourceful way to capture methane and create renewable natural gas. In our conversations, we found a consensus to work toward permitting reform making it easier to do business in Minnesota and transmission solutions to meet resiliency and reliability needs.

Other additional topics that were discussed in some of our meetings with Congressional offices were geothermal technology. Congressional staffers are excited about the construction of geothermal plants and wells in the Prairie Island Indian Community as it will advance them toward net zero carbon goals.

Minnesota energy landscape briefing

The CEEM/BCSE teams held the MN Energy Briefing on October 26 and with a room sponsored by Senator Tina Smith in the U.S. State Capitol. The briefing was well attended by staffers from a majority of the Congressional districts.

The briefing began with a round of introductions from all attendees then a presentation from Lisa Jacobson, President of BCSE, on key takeaways from the 2023 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The Factbook highlights US clean energy market trends with a focus on economic impacts and policy insights.

This year’s report finds that the clean energy transition is now hardwired into the U.S. economy. You see that in part by the investments being made into the transition – like $141 billion invested by US companies – a significant portion of the $1 trillion invested globally. In the U.S. last year natural gas and renewables accounted for 62 percent of electricity generation.

In the second segment of the MN Energy Briefing, Gregg Mast, Executive Director of CEEM, presented on the 2023 Minnesota Energy Factsheet and the 2023 Clean Jobs Midwest Minnesota Fact Sheet. Attendees also had the opportunity to watch the 2023 Minnesota Energy Factsheet Video. We shared more on Minnesota’s rapid electricity generation transition, this year renewables accounted for 31% of our state’s electricity generation. Greenhouse gas emissions are also making solid downward progress, down 7 percent in 2022, and a whopping 35% reduction in the last decade.

 

George Damian, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs of CEEM, provided a short MN policy update and CEEM’s Top 4 Policies to Support Clean Energy:

  1. Defend against attempts to roll back federal clean energy and vehicle legislation
  2. Develop and fund workforce training programs
  3. Expand transmission to increase access for clean energy projects
  4. Advance and implement state-level clean energy policies

At the end of the briefing, attendees asked questions related to concerns about the speed of the energy transition because of the new clean energy standard in Minnesota, key roadblocks anticipated in the need for investment in technology to achieve the 100% by 2040 carbon-free goal, emerging technologies advancement specifically with municipal and co-operative energy, and opportunities for advanced nuclear in Minnesota.

 

Next steps

Forging new relationships and strengthening existing ones with Congressional offices is a hugely important part of CEEM’s government affairs team. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and an ambitious climate strategy from the Biden Administration, strengthened ties in D.C. are critical to Minnesota’s own clean energy transition.

If you are a CEEM business member interested in hosting your Congressional representative and offices to tour your facility, please contact George Damian at gdamian@cleanenergyeconomymn.org.

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