On Thursday, J Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director for Fresh Energy spoke on “Minnesota’s Clean Energy Solutions to Climate Change”. She focused on renewable energy and the role it plays in Minnesota Businesses and policies. Attendees left with a sense of hope and energized and primed to help with our state’s next steps to put into place clean energy solutions that benefit our economy. Among them was Jeff Erdmann who is running as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Jason Lewis in the 2018 election. He along with many others came to learn more about the renewable energy solutions for Minnesota.
The first thing we all learned, was that most of what we thought we knew about renewable energy was outdated. The industry is moving so fast and furious that even some statistics from 2016 are outdated. But what hasn’t changed is that Solar and Wind energy is better for the people and planet than coal and natural gas.
The pollution from burning fossils fuels effects all of our health, especially elderly and children. These include increased rates and severity of heart and lung disease, heat related illnesses, allergies, asthma and many others, all of which contribute to the 2.1 billion annual costs Minnesotans pay in annual health and climate change damages. Not only does renewable energy cut these costs, but it also cuts the global security risks by decreasing instability caused by global warming.
Many of us are aware of the huge benefits of global warming, but there was a lot we learned that we didn’t already know. Such as, did you know that it will take only 3% of Earth’s land area to power humanity in 2030? Or that from 2009 to 2016, solar and wind energy prices fell 85 and 66 percent, respectively. In the Great Plains area wind power is now around $20 per megawatt hour, which is better than many coal plants. And did you know that 22% of Minnesota is now powered by renewable energy, up from 2% in 2004. That is a 20% increase in 12 years!
The case for renewable energy is a hard one to ignore; and not only are many Minnesota companies paying attention, but they are embracing it. Mortenson Construction and Blatter Energy are two of those companies. Both based in Minnesota, together they have installed 70% of all solar in North America. Impressive!
But they are not the only ones. Over 700 Minnesota companies help to supply renewable energy. This has created over 15,000 clean energy jobs in Minnesota. Jobs that pay on average $70,000, which is 42% more than national average. Since 2000 clean energy employment has increased by 78% compared to state’s total job growth of 11 percent. Many of these jobs are installers, but growing are the jobs in Marketing, Finance, Sales, Project Management, Engineering, IT and several other professions.
Much of Minnesota’s success in becoming a top competitor in renewable energy is thanks to the work of Fresh Energy . Before Minnesota became a leader in renewable energy, Fresh Energy asked the legislature to answer one question: Will Minnesota be open for business? The legislature answered yes.
In 2007, Governor Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act, which effectively doubled the amount of energy saved by Minnesota’s utilities. It also expanded and strengthed Minnesota’s commitment to the development of locally-owned renewable energy projects. The Next Generation Energy sets state wide reduction goals of 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050. And in 2017, we are already ahead of schedule. This is why a bipartisan group has submitted House File 1772 and Senate File 1531 asking for 50% Renewable Standard by 2030.
But this is not the end; there is still a lot of work to do. Even though the Renewable Energy Revolution is coming fast, it is not fast enough. We each need to do our part to push it along. Find out what you can do to help.