Far more of Minnesota’s washers, toasters and televisions will be powered by the wind, the sun and animal manure by 2025 now that a new law has put the state at the forefront of a national push to use more renewable energy.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the bill Thursday demanding that 25 percent of the state’s electricity come from next-generation power sources by 2025, a goal some advocates think will be achieved even sooner.
“We have to break our addiction to fossil fuels,” Pawlenty said in signing the legislation.
The new law, which sailed through the Legislature, encourages the use of wind farms, hydroelectric power and solar energy, as well as burned plants and animal waste.
Considering where Minnesota stands now – about half the power produced in the state is from coal, and only 5 percent from renewable sources that count under the law – the move is the most aggressive in the country, analysts say.
“Minnesota’s is the biggest reach,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a nonprofit environmental coalition that pushed for the law.
Minnesota’s numerical goal trails targets already in place for Maine and New York, but those states had been getting a significant amount of electricity from large-scale hydropower facilities before their standards were adopted, according to data from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Minnesota depends on coal for almost half of the power produced in the state. Mike Bull, Assistant Commissioner for Renewable Energy at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said wind, water and other renewable sources now account for about 5 percent.
Jeff Deyette, energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, “As of a percentage of where all their electricity will come from, Minnesota is now in the lead with this policy in terms of supporting new renewable energy development.”
Minnesota’s previous objective was to encourage power producers to draw 10 percent of retail electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
“As states are catching up with us, we want to raise the bar,” Pawlenty said.
Under the new law, more than a dozen utilities and municipal power consortiums would be bound by the 25-by-2025 standard. Xcel Energy Inc., which delivers half of Minnesota’s electricity, would have to meet a 30 percent by 2020 benchmark.
Xcel is now producing 7 percent of its Minnesota power from renewable sources, said Dave Sparby, acting president and chief executive of the company’s Minnesota operations. Xcel was already under orders to go that route as part of a nuclear waste storage deal from the mid-1990s.
Xcel expects to have 4,000 megawatts of wind online by 2020, the equivalent of 2,000 turbines. The company recently announced plans for a 100-megawatt wind farm to complement the 676 megawatts of wind power it currently has in its Minnesota system.
With Xcel’s 30 percent and other utilities ramping up, Minnesota should be able to reach an aggregate 25 percent of renewable power by 2020, Noble said.
There are escape valves, including an energy credit trading system to help producers struggling to meet the standard. Utility regulators could also delay or modify the timeline if they determine that the cost of meeting it would significantly increase customer bills.
Minnesota’s move comes as states around the country stake out far-off goals for renewable energy.
More than 20 states have some type of renewable requirement or good-faith objective. Colorado legislators are moving toward a standard of 20 percent by 2020, while New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch challenged lawmakers last week to adopt a 25 percent by 2025 requirement.
Clean-energy advocates are also pressuring Congress to adopt a goal of getting 25 percent of the nation’s energy – electricity, motor fuel and other power – from renewable sources by 2025 and reduce reliance on foreign imports.
By Brian Bakst, Associated Press
22 February 2007
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