2007 was a landmark year for energy policy in Minnesota. The legislature passed the strongest renewable energy standard in the nation with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. This law makes Minnesota a leader in clean energy policy and creates a great opportunity for our state to reap the rewards of the booming renewable energy industry. With the passage of The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, the legislature made sure much of the economic benefits of the increased renewable energy would stay in our rural communities.
The bill also contains real solutions to global warming that will create tangible cost savings for Minnesotan families and businesses.
The Renewable Energy Standard
The strongest renewable energy standard (RES) in the nation became law this session when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a requirement that the state’s electric utilities obtain 25% of their energy from renewable resources by 2020. Minnesota’s utilities currently get about 6% of their energy from renewable sources. Under this new law, Minnesota will add between 5,000 and 6,000 MW of new renewable energy, a large part of which is expected to come from new wind turbines in our rural communities.
The renewable energy standard is a market-based mechanism that requires utilities to gradually increase the portion of their energy that is produced from renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy. The RES uses tradable renewable energy credits to achieve reductions in a flexible, low-cost manner that creates competition among renewable energy generators and provides them with an incentive to continually drive costs down. Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard will help keep electricity costs low, spur economic development, increase energy independence and security, and lead to cleaner air.
The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007
The Next Generation Energy Act, signed into law this May, provides for concrete actions that will set Minnesota on a path to achieve 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Key components of the law include:
Three times the current amount of investment in energy efficiency measures that will produce a 25% energy savings by 2025.
- A goal to aggressively reduce our global warming pollution to reach an 80% reduction below 2005 levels by 2050.
- The creation of an economy-wide climate change action plan by February 1, 2008. Arizona’s climate action plan will result in an estimated overall net economic cost savings of more than $5.5 billion from 2007 to 2020.
- Required reductions in CO2 from the power sector. After August 1, 2009 there will be a moratorium on new power plants unless they can offset their CO2 emissions
The Next Generation Energy Act also includes critical provisions that will help rural communities plan, build, and own renewable energy facilities themselves, thereby keeping energy dollars in local communities. The Act:
- Allows counties to take over permitting authority to site wind energy facilities up to 25MW in size, an increase over the previous 5MW, and impose higher standards than state laws.
- Allows local governments to own wind energy projects with more than two turbines without partnering with other entities.
- Requires utilities to study the amount of renewable energy that can be connected to existing local transmission lines and substations with minimal upgrades, thereby using existing utility infrastructure more efficiently and delaying the need for new large transmission lines.
- Requires that developers finish projects within 7 years or renegotiate land development agreements with landowners to extend these agreements.
- Requires the Department of Commerce to consider the Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) economic benefits that flow to all local interests, not just the project developer, when approving C-BED projects.
- Allows C-BED developers to negotiate market-based rates unhindered by out-of-date price caps.
- Requires utilities to consider contracting with C-BED projects to comply with the Renewable Energy Standard.
- Allows utilities to partner with C-BED projects.
- Requires a variety of studies on emerging community energy issues.
“These changes in law will help cities, counties, school districts, and other local agencies develop, own, and benefit from wind farms. Local ownership of wind projects helps ensure that a broader spectrum of Minnesotans benefit financially from renewable energy, and it also helps make rural communities more energy independent.”
-David Benson, Nobles County Commissioner
For more information about the benefits of community wind, click here.
For the full text of the Renewable Energy Standard bill click here.
For the full text of The Next Generation Energy Act, click here.