Top 10 clean energy stories of 2024

December 19, 2023
Clean energy made historic gains in Minnesota in 2023. From passage of the 100% clean energy by 2040 law, to a long list of rebates, incentives and investments in a variety of climate and clean energy proposals, this was a big year for progress. See our top 10 list of the biggest news stories from the last year.

1. Minnesota passes 100% clean energy by 2040 legislation

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Minnesota joins the 100% club joining 10 other states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico that require a transition to 100% clean energy by 2050 or sooner. Minnesota’s law is one of the strongest laws in the nation when it passes and is signed into law early in the legislative session.

Since its first introduction in 2019, CEEM has brought the business voice to the conversation around how this bill will move Minnesota to a clean energy future. CEEM Executive Director Gregg Mast released the following statement:

“Minnesota has already demonstrated we’re up to the challenge of decarbonizing our power sector and delivering economic benefits to all Minnesotans. By passing 100% clean energy by 2040, we’ve just ensured it will happen. Not only will this bill help us achieve state carbon reduction goals – it creates new business opportunities, strengthens our energy independence and security and finally, it mitigates risk. Today is a day to celebrate this historic win.”

MN Capitol Building

2. Minnesota passes $200 million for competitiveness fund

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In order for Minnesota to compete for billions in funds available in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), it needs its own pool of matching funds. The state legislature passed some $190 million this year for a ‘competitiveness fund’ to help state, local, and tribal governments and other entities pursue federal grants for clean-energy infrastructure.

The State Competitiveness Fund includes resources for technical assistance and grant-writing help. There’s also money for required reports and audits through 2035, with bill sponsors noting there is a rigorous vetting process in working with the federal government on this effort.

3. Minnesota passes historic climate and clean energy bill

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The 2023 legislative session unleashed a wave of investments and modernized policy, bringing with it an exciting era for Minnesota’s energy efficiency and clean energy sectors. Specifically, the Environment and Energy Omnibus bill will help catapult the industry into a new gear to fulfill the 100% Clean Energy by 2040 law that was signed earlier this session. This bill builds upon a truly historic session and includes provisions that will ensure Minnesota’s national leadership in:

  • Leveraging the Inflation Reduction Act – with new incentives and rebates for consumers for a variety of carbon reduction technologies including EVs, air source heat pumps and electrical panel upgrades.
  • Energy Innovation – the legislature funded CEEM’s Minnesota Energy Alley request which will create critical programming and business support for energy innovators. It also created a new Minnesota Climate Innovation Finance Authority to unlock capital for clean energy projects in low-income and communities of color.
  • 100% implementation – a variety of funding for new high-voltage transmission lines, solar on schools and public buildings as well as the establishment of a new energy storage incentive program.

“The energy efficiency and clean energy measures enacted this year illustrate a strong commitment to Minnesota’s transition to clean energy amidst a historic legislative session. These policies offer the clarity, certainty and market signals needed for businesses to invest in Minnesota for the long term,” said Mast. “I am especially proud that the Minnesota Energy Alley provision was included in the Environment and Energy Omnibus bill which invests in the entrepreneurs and innovators who will make Minnesota’s clean energy future a reality.”

hydrogen

4. Heartland Hydrogen Hub in Minnesota selected to receive federal funding

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Clean energy projects in seven states — including Minnesota — have been selected by the Biden administration for a $7 billion program to kickstart development and production of hydrogen fuel, a key component of President Joe Biden’s agenda to slow climate change.

His goal is to establish seven regional hydrogen hubs to help replace fossil fuels such as coal and oil with cleaner-burning hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles, manufacturing and generating electricity.

The Minnesota-based Heartland Hydrogen Hub seeks to decarbonize fertilizer used in agriculture and advance use of clean hydrogen in electric generation and for cold climate space heating. It also plans to offer equity ownership to tribal communities and local farmers.

Power lines

5. Transmission lines get a jolt of federal money

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A focus on the rapid buildout of transmission is a high priority for the clean energy community across the state and county in order to accommodate the transition to renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy is sending nearly a half billion dollars to make the electric grid more reliable in Minnesota and six other Midwest states and create stronger connections between the places where power is being generated and where it’s being consumed.

The $464 million grant, from the DOE’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program, will go toward the construction of five high-voltage transmission lines that will span Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. Those dollars are expected to spark at least $1 billion in private investments in the energy sector.

6. Innovative Form Energy iron-air battery approved for Sherco solar site

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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a multi-day long-duration energy storage project proposed by Xcel Energy and Form Energy.

The demonstration-scale, 10 MW/1,000 MWh iron-air battery system, developed by Form Energy, will be installed on 5 acres of land near the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minnesota. The project will be located near the 710 MW Sherco Solar site, which is currently in development.

In April, the iron-air battery project received a $10 million contingent grant commitment for its efforts in using emerging climate technologies to reduce emissions and accelerate the clean energy transition.

7. Zero-carbon power generates 55% of Minnesota’s electricity

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Minnesota has once again proven itself a leader in the clean energy transition, with a new report showing that zero-carbon power generated a staggering 55% of the state’s electricity in 2022. This marks the third consecutive year that zero-carbon power has remained the majority of Minnesota’s electricity, surpassing the national share by an impressive 14%.

The report, released today by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), also reveals that renewable technologies provided nearly one-third of Minnesota’s generation in 2022 – a significant increase from the 10.6TWh generated a decade ago. In fact, renewable generation has risen by an astounding 75% over the last ten years, with a total of 18.6TWh generated last year.

The 2023 Minnesota Energy Factsheet tracks several critical indicators that reflect the state’s progress towards achieving a clean energy future. For instance, Minnesota continues to outpace the nation in emission reductions. Greenhouse gas emissions in the state are now nearly 50% below 2005 levels with the state’s power sector emissions declining by nearly 35% in the past decade, including a seven percent decline in 2022. Additionally, the state’s energy productivity, which measures the efficiency of energy usage, increased last year. Despite major challenges such as supply chain disruptions, tariffs, and workforce issues, the clean energy industry continued to expand, reducing the need for imported energy to only nine percent.

clean energy worker installing solar panels

8. Xcel breaks ground on largest solar project in the Midwest

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Xcel Energy breaks ground this spring on what will be a 460 MW solar project to replace the Sherco coal-fired power plant near Becker, MN. This fall, Xcel announced plans to add an additional 250 MW solar project adjacent to the one it’s currently building, bringing the total investment in the solar site to nearly $1 billion, and making it the largest solar project in the entire Midwest. All phases of both projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Sherco Solar’s 710 MW capacity will generate enough electricity to power more than 150,000 homes a year on average across the company’s Upper Midwest system. Xcel Energy expects to qualify for federal tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act on Sherco Solar’s energy production, helping customers save money.

EE Worker

9. Minnesota home to nearly 60,000 clean energy jobs

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Clean energy businesses in Minnesota added more than 1,900 workers in 2022, now employing 59,708 Minnesotans. That’s according to a new analysis of employment data released today by the national, nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), Evergreen Climate Innovations and Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM). The report comes after the one year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest investment in climate and clean energy in history, which is already boosting clean energy jobs and businesses across the state and region.

“By investing in clean energy jobs, we’re expanding opportunities for Minnesotans in high-growth, in-demand industries while building an economy for the future,” said Governor Walz. “This year’s Clean Jobs report shows that the investments we’re making in infrastructure and workforce development are paying off. Minnesota continues to be on the front lines of the clean energy economy.”

10. Heat pumps poised to accelerate Minnesota’s clean energy transition

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Between passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act and Minnesota’s own sweeping climate and clean energy passed during the 2023 session, a myriad of technologies including air source heat pumps have been highly incentivized for Minnesota consumers to purchase to help reduce carbon emissions from our buildings sector.

Depending on income level, Minnesota homeowners will soon be eligible for a federal rebate up to $8,000, and a state rebate of up to $4,000. Additional federal rebates will also be available for home retrofits that result in efficiency upgrades, including heat pump installations.

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