Top 10 most important clean energy stories from 2019

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This year we saw more people across the political spectrum discussing clean energy issues and climate change than ever before. The business community is doubling down on clean energy investments, and citizens are speaking up and taking action. There’s a lot to celebrate about 2019 and the cultural shift it’s brought to the clean energy conversation. Here are some of the highlights from the last year. 

1.) Governor Walz sets goal: 100% clean energy by 2050. Walz’s announcement in March of 2019 was much heralded by the entire clean energy community. It gave the Minnesota House considerable momentum and a spotlight on their work to de-carbonize Minnesota’s electricity sector. The House passed Walz’s 100% clean energy bill. The bill did not receive a hearing in the Minnesota Senate. 

2.) 3M announces 100% global renewable electricity goal. 3M’s transition to 100 percent renewable electricity at its headquarters will increase the company’s total global renewable electricity sourcing by more than 5 percent to approximately 30 percent. The move further helps the company reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 3M has recorded a 68 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2002.

3.) 2019 Minnesota State Energy Factsheet shows cost of adding new wind and solar continues to decline. The unveiling of the 2019 Minnesota State Energy Factsheet shows a 23% and 16% decline in costs for wind and solar, respectively. The cost of solar energy has dropped by 80% over the last decade and wind by about 65% since 2009. The report reinforced the message that clean energy is creating jobs and strengthening Minnesota’s economy. 

4.) Clean Jobs Midwest report shows Minnesota is home to 61,000 clean energy jobs and counting. The Clean Jobs Midwest Report came out in April of 2019 to much fanfare at a press conference with Governor Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times faster than the overall job market, and 40% of those jobs are located in Greater Minnesota. 

5.) Clean energy financing change open doors to commercial sector investments. Significant expansions to Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) was one of only two pieces of energy-related legislation successfully passed in the 2019 legislative session. Changes allowed for improvements in assessing commercial property values and the expansion of PACE finance options to commercial new construction. The law has already generated hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction projects, and the growth in financing is already outpacing expectations.

6.) Cargill, Target and other MN corporations urge lawmakers to address climate change. In a rare move, nine major companies with headquarters or operations in Minnesota urged state lawmakers to address climate change as part of the final policy and spending negotiations of the 2019 legislative session.

7.) Polar vortex shows challenges and opportunities for energy systems. All of the resources in Minnesota's energy fleet – including renewables, coal and gas – experienced challenges during the extreme cold temperatures we endured at the end of January 2019. The nearly 50 degrees below zero weather reinforced the need to create greater reliability throughout Minnesota’s electrical grid.

8.) Governor Tim Walz announces new clean car standards for Minnesota. Governor Tim Walz announces new clean car standards for Minnesota this fall that will, among other things, require car manufacturers to offer more electric vehicles for sale in the state. He has directed the Minnesota Pollution Control agency to implement the new measure. 

9.) Suburban communities talk climate change, clean energy business growth. An increasing number of suburban legislators are hosting Climate Conversations with constituents, and have asked CEEM to be a part of these conversations. 

10.) Small clean energy businesses are the growth leaders of Minnesota’s economy. Small businesses are the growth engine for clean-energy and efficiency jobs. That sector in Minnesota grew jobs 2.5 times faster than overall job growth in 2018. And 72% of those jobs were companies that employ fewer [than] 20. These companies are working at the intersection of energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmental considerations and next-generation software and technology.