Earlier this week I participated in the Clean Energy and Jobs day at the capitol along with over 400 other Minnesotans who are concerned about our energy future. It was inspiring to see so many Minnesotans out and advocating for clean energy, and was a great way to learn about what’s on the docket this legislative session.
The day at the capitol featured presentations that represented the diversity of the Clean Energy and Jobs coalition. This is a broad coalition featuring labor, industry, science, and faith partners. There was a lobby training for citizens, a youth led song, and an interfaith prayer circle. The Union of Concerned Scientists released their Clean Energy Report in tandem with the day of action. Governor Mark Dayton showed his support for clean energy by meeting with a youth delegation to discuss the ways young people will be impacted by climate change.
The Clean Energy and Jobs coalition has won on key legislation in the past (passing a 25% RES by 2025, supporting Solar Works’ 10% Solar Energy Standard by 2030), and 2015 is another good year to win on energy issues. The coalition has over 60 partners from advocacy, labor, industry, and faith organizations.
This session, the campaign is asking for two things:
- To increase Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to 40% by 2030, and
- To increase the yearly energy efficiency goal for utilities from 1.5% to 2%.
This is an important turning point for our state, and passing this legislation is a step toward creating the new energy economy. We have already proven our leadership through passing a solar standard in 2013, but we are only using 1% of our wind energy capacity. The plan to increase the RES to 40% is an essential part of the clean energy plan, and builds off of existing law. Our state currently boasts an RES of 25% by 2025, and across the state we get 15% of our energy from renewables. We are well on track to meeting our goal of 25%.
Not only does Minnesota have the capacity and the market to increase our clean energy goals, but we have a labor force ready to go to work. Employment in clean energy sectors reached 15,300 in 2014, and has grown 78% between January 2000 and 2014. This in a time when our economy and industry battled nationwide recession. There are currently more than 113 solar companies at work in all parts of the industry in Minnesota. Nearly 2,000 wind turbines in the state generate enough energy to power 744,000 average MN homes. Clean energy is a clear choice for this state – we’ve already set the groundwork for success, and now it’s time to follow through.
This day also highlighted for me that many of our representatives are committed to fossil fuel use, and that they don’t understand the economics. I sat in on a meeting with a representative and climate denier who adamantly opposed any investment in renewables, claiming we didn’t have an economic basis. She wouldn’t even take literature – and started the meeting saying that there was nothing we could say or do to convince her this was a viable option. Her biggest arguments were that the market for renewable energy isn’t there and that it doesn’t create jobs, two things that are disproven by recent analysis of the Minnesota energy markets and economy.
We have a lot of work to do. Minnesota is a leader on energy issues across the nation, and now is the time to expand our reach and goals.