Letter: Clean energy needed

Published 12:08 pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

Letter to the Editor

Minnesota needs forward-thinking action on renewable energy resources at our state Capitol to spur continued economic development and the creation of good jobs. Increasing the amount of renewable resources like wind and solar will reduce the amount of imported fossil fuels we use to generate our energy and it will reduce pollution released into our air, water and soil. Prioritizing the protection of our natural resources will allow us to continue enjoying the outdoor activities we love while preserving them for future generations as well.

The 2013 Energy Omnibus Bill now up for debate in the Minnesota House of Representatives can accomplish both economic development and environmental preservation. This bill builds on legislation passed with strong bipartisan support in 2007, which established a 25 percent of total capacity renewable electricity standard by the year 2025. Six years later, there are many promising results from the renewable electricity standard: thousands of jobs have been created that support rural communities while protecting our air, water, and soil, all with utilities reporting little to no impact on rates. This year’s House Energy Omnibus Bill would increase the state’s renewable electricity standard to 40 percent by 2030, create a 4 percent solar energy standard by 2025, remove barriers to developing clean locally produced power and expand our state’s solar market.

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Sixteen states around the country have enacted solar energy standards — several of them have lower solar resources than we do here in Minnesota. The solar industry provides nearly 120,000 jobs nationwide and last year it could boast of a 13.2 percent employment growth at a time when the overall economy grew at a rate of 2.3 percent. This is the type of forward-thinking legislation we need at the Capitol.

Special interest groups continue to raise concerns about the cost of renewable energy and the ability of renewable generation sources to keep the lights on, much as they did in 2007. Such concerns are unfounded, however, as Minnesota gets roughly 17 percent of its electricity from wind energy, with utilities reporting little to no rate impacts. In fact, some utilities report reduced rates with wind on the grid. Additionally, wind provides nearly 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in our state: in wind facility construction, component manufacturing, shipping, and other fields. Cash-strapped local governments across Minnesota are also reaping the benefits of renewable resources, as wind energy contributes $7.6 million every year in local tax payments.

As Minnesota comes closer to reaching the goal of 25 percent renewable electricity, the demand for wind energy and its products is falling as the industry looks for a clear market direction. Consequently, Minnesota has dropped to seventh in the nation for installed wind farms. Wind is a unique and renewable resource for Minnesota, which is why it is so critical we raise the bar by increasing the demand for wind energy in Minnesota.

Minnesota currently spends billions of dollars every year on coal, oil and uranium fuel sources from other states. These are dollars we send out of our state to drive jobs and development in other states and countries. Some of the most profitable businesses in America call for more renewable energy because it actually improves their bottom line. Minnesota can’t afford to forestall the economic and environmental benefits of bringing renewable resource industries to our state. By investing in more wind and solar sources the 2013 House Energy Omnibus Bill will help bolster our local economies and protect the natural resources that make Minnesota a great place to live.

Mark Owens,

President Austin Chapter 10, Izaak Walton League