Minnesota Renewables to surge with ‘no impact to taxpayers’ — report

Source: Ines Kagubare, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Minnesota is on its way to hitting its renewable energy goals — and it won’t cost taxpayers any extra.

A study released Thursday by MN Solar Pathways found that solar could make up 10 percent of the state’s electricity by 2025. In addition, the report predicts that as renewable energy costs decrease, Minnesota will be able to produce 70 percent of its power from solar and wind by 2050 at costs comparable to natural gas generation.

Minnesota this year has already hit its renewable electricity standard goal of 25 percent by 2025 using wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. It’s also on course to reach its current solar electricity standard of 1.5 percent by the end of 2020.

“I’m very excited and very pleased by [the report],” said state Sen. John Marty (D), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee. “I think we will easily exceed what the report predicts.”

MN Solar Pathways, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, is a three-year project designed to explore least-risk, best-value strategies for meeting the state’s solar goals, according to a news release. The project aims to model renewable generation costs, examine ways to streamline interconnection and evaluate technologies that can increase solar hosting capacity on the distribution grid.

Marty said that although the state has made progress in the renewable energy sector, it still needs to be bolder and aggressive. He said the best way to approach that is to include some mandates and subsidies for high energy efficiency. He added that the state should also figure out how to phase out fossil fuel energy.

Jeff Ressler, CEO of Clean Power Research, one of the groups that led the study, said the key takeaway is that building additional solar and wind capacity beyond the minimum requirement is cost-effective compared to seasonal energy storage.

“One of the major advantages of wind and solar is that their costs continue to decline significantly faster than comparable natural gas generators,” added Josh Quinnell, senior research engineer at the Center for Energy and Environment, another group that participated in the study.

“We can say that there will be no impact to taxpayers due to generation cost when we hit these renewable goals,” he said.

Minnesota — an emerging leader in the fight to combat climate change — elected three Democrats to the U.S. House in the midterm election who all pledged to take stronger action for clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Climatewire, Nov. 14).