Minnesota renewable-energy output grows as pollution from electric generation declines

Source: By Neal St.Anthony, Star Tribune • Posted: Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nearly half of Minnesota’s power came from zero-carbon sources last year.

Minnesota’s renewable-energy industry grew in 2019 and coal burning and carbon emissions declined, according to data released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

“This report shows the significant progress Minnesota is making as we transition to a clean energy economy,” Gregg Mast, chief executive of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, said in a statement.

“This report also emphasizes the fact that wind and solar are the cheapest forms of new power generation in the market,” he said.

The Minnesota Energy Factsheet, a supplement to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, found that last year:

• The state had a 14% reduction in electricity-sector carbon emissions due to decreased coal usage and greater reliance on renewables and natural gas. Emissions have fallen 37% since 2005 and 27% since 2010.

• Nearly half of Minnesota’s power came from zero-carbon sources. Meanwhile, coal’s contribution slipped from 38% in 2018 to 32% in 2019.

• Renewables accounted for 84% of new electricity generation capacity added since 2010, totaling 3.4 gigawatts.

• Over the last decade, Minnesota has boosted “energy productivity” by 22%. Power consumption is up 2%, while state economic output rose 24%, proving it takes less energy, thanks partly to energy-saving software and technology.

Even without the federal production tax credit, new wind farms are cheaper than new combined-cycle natural gas plants on a dollars-per-megawatt basis in Minnesota, according to the report. With the production tax credit and investment tax credit, wind and solar technologies are the cheapest types of new electricity generation in the state.

Meanwhile, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has ranked Minnesota eighth of the 50 states for overall energy-efficiency programs. That is best in the Midwest.

“The data shows that Minnesota is leading the way with an energy transformation that lowers costs and improves efficiency,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “This … will serve Minnesota well as the economy recovers.”