Top 3 clean energy trends at the Minnesota legislature

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Clean energy will continue to cross party lines… and that’s a good thing! 

The politics of clean energy are evolving. According to a 2018 nationwide poll of likely voters by conservative polling group Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), 81% percent of voters support government action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy (more HERE). 

Here in Minnesota, where we have the only divided legislature in the nation (Senate is controlled by Republicans, the House is majority Democrats) we’re seeing bipartisan support for clean energy legislation. In January, Minnesota Senate Republicans held two public hearings on proposed “Clean Energy First” legislation (see PRESS RELEASE). The bill aims to require Minnesota utilities to prioritize carbon-free technology in system plans and directs regulators at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to consider whether utilities’ new energy projects are in the public interest.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives and the Walz-Flanagan Administration are considering clean energy legislation, after using the 2019 session to pass a “One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy'' proposal requiring utilities to get to 100% clean energy by 2050. CEEM expects subjects from the House’s 2019 session to return for 2020 debate, including community solar energy, funding for solar development on school buildings, and other programs.

CEEM prides itself on non-partisan advocacy and finding bi-partisan pathways to move industry forward. We expect 2020 to further prove clean energy is a “between the aisle” not “across the aisle” topic!

Climate change will influence conversations at the Capitol 

Climate change is a hot topic all around the Capitol. New for 2020, the DFL House launched a Climate Action Caucus (MORE) and Senate DFL a Clean Energy & Climate Caucus (MORE). Both are dedicated to discussions on how climate change will impact Minnesota.

Voters are also showing a desire for climate action. More CRES polling from 2019 shows that amongst millennial GOP voters, 67% said the Republican party needs to do more on climate change. Further, 78% of millennial Republicans support the government taking action to accelerate the development of clean energy (MORE). Many elected officials have been holding town hall conversations about climate and clean energy issues. 

CEEM member companies are success stories of industry and climate. CEEM is sharing the stories of clean energy businesses and employees in these discussions, working across industries and political divides to support the “business voice of clean energy.” CEEM is happy to join conversations in your community. Please contact Benjamin Stafford at bstafford@cleanenergyeconomymn.org. (see how CEEM is bringing the business perspective HERE). 

Energy conservation means business

The 2020 session also holds potential for energy conservation policy. CEEM will support legislation to unleash business opportunities through energy waste reduction and energy efficiency. We anticipate legislation to improve business opportunities through existing programs, like the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) and Conservation Improvement Program (CIP).

The GESP is intended to invest in energy improvements in state-owned facilities. CEEM is working with colleagues in energy, labor, government, and finance to unlock the potential for benefits in those facilities. Energy-efficiency investments in public buildings is a win for taxpayers and energy efficiency businesses alike. We look forward to improving the GESP efforts this session.

There is also support to improve Minnesota’s successful CIP statute. To date CIP has helped save more than $6 billion since 1998. For every $1 invested in CIP yields $4 in economic benefits. Third party evaluations have found 80% of efficiency savings would not have taken place without CIP. CIP also saves all utility customers money by reducing the need to build new generation and infrastructure. 

Be on the lookout for more energy conservation updates soon!

CEEM’s 2020 Outlook

In 2020, Minnesota’s legislators will debate a set of policy proposals that will enhance Minnesota’s leadership position in growing clean energy businesses and jobs. These include:

  • 100% Clean Energy by 2050 – would require Minnesota electric utilities to use only carbon-free energy resources by 2050.
  • Clean Energy First – prioritizes energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels when a utility proposes to replace or add new power generation.
  • Energy Conservation and Optimization – increases the ability for households and businesses to save energy and money on their utility bills by using energy more efficiently.
  • Community Solar Gardens and Solar*Rewards – expand access to community solar gardens and increase funding for Solar*Rewards to accelerate the growth of Minnesota’s solar industry.
  • Bioincentive Program – increase funding to ramp up commercial-scale production of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biomass thermal energy.
  • Guaranteed Energy Savings Program – speed the implementation of energy conservation measures that reduce energy waste in state-owned buildings and higher education.