Study Finds Producing 40 Percent of Power from Renewable Energy in Minnesota Would Spur $6 Billion in Clean Energy Investments and Boost Rural Economies

Source: By Union of Concerned Scientists • Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015

Renewable Generators Would Provide Millions in Local Tax Revenue and Payments to Rural Communities, While Keeping Rates Affordable

ST. PAUL (January 21, 2014)—Strengthening Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard to require that 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2030 would drive billions in new investment in clean energy generation in Minnesota at little additional cost to consumers, according to a study released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Minnesota’s current standard is 25 percent by 2025.

“Getting 40 percent of power from renewable energy is a good deal for Minnesota families, businesses and rural communities,” said Steve Frenkel, director of UCS’s Midwest office. “Tapping more of Minnesota’s homegrown clean energy resources will spur more than $6 billion in new private capital investment and provide millions in local tax revenue to help rural communities fund essential services like police and fire departments and schools.”

UCS’s analysis found that increasing Minnesota’s standard from 25 percent in 2025 to 40 percent by 2030 would:

  • Spur more than $6 billion in capital investments through 2030;
  • Drive 3,100 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy development in Minnesota;
  • Inject $155 million into the state economy in money spent to operate and maintain wind and solar facilities by 2030;
  • Generate $14 million in annual state tax revenue by 2030;
  • Generate nearly $9 million in annual payments to landowners who lease their land to be used for wind turbines by 2030;
  • Reduce out-of-state electricity imports each year, resulting in Minnesota becoming a net electricity exporter in 2030.

UCS’s report confirmed results from a recent report prepared for the Minnesota Department of Commerce that found a 40 percent by 2030 renewable energy standard would preserve electricity reliability year-round while reducing Minnesota’s reliance on imported electricity with only modest additional investment in the transmission system.

UCS’s analysis found the strengthened standard would add less than 0.2 percent (two-tenths of one percent) to consumers’ utility bills—about 12 cents per month through 2030.

“The capital costs of wind and solar power have declined more than 60 percent in recent years, making these zero-carbon technologies competitive with coal and natural gas power plants. And because wind and solar power have no fuel costs, they’re less risky than relying on imported fossil fuels that can experience dramatic price swings,” said Sam Gomberg, UCS energy analyst and report author. “Strengthening the renewable electricity standard is the best way to sustainably meet Minnesota’s electricity demand while reaping significant economic and environmental benefits.”

Boosting Minnesota’s renewable electricity standard would build on the significant economic benefits the current standard has delivered with little or no change in electricity bills. Since 2007, $5.6 billion has been invested in Minnesota wind facilities that have paid $42 million in state taxes—money distributed to municipalities to support local services. In addition, wind facilities now pay more than $10 million annually in lease payments.

“In 2007, Minnesota adopted its current renewable energy standard with strong bipartisan support from the majority democratic legislature and republican governor,” said Frenkel. “Now it’s time to build on the state’s legacy of leadership and success to secure Minnesota’s clean energy future, an idea that both sides of the aisle should again work together to support.”