January 31, 2023
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The opportunities to transform Minnesota’s clean energy economy in the upcoming legislative session are enormous.

Signals of change began to come with the historic passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), preceded by the CHIPS and Science Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This federal investment package provides important resources and also serves as a catalyst for the seismic market to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. With a projected $17.6 billion surplus, combined with proven policy proposals that have received bipartisan support in previous years, we can catapult our state back to its status as a clean energy leader in the Midwest and the nation.

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100% clean energy by 2040

First introduced by Governor Tim Walz in 2019 as part of the Clean Energy Priority Package, 100% Clean Energy by 2040 went through several iterations before reaching its current state. The bill would require Minnesota utilities to completely decarbonize their electricity generation by 2040. This will send an important signal to businesses and other states that Minnesota is fully committed to a clean energy future, building on the energy sector’s past successes. achieved in achieving the largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota in the past decade. The adoption of this policy will also go a long way towards achieving the Governor’s Framework for Action on Climate Change goal of achieving net zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

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Decarbonizing the Minnesota Economy

Next up is an equally important task: to address the decarbonization of our entire economy, with particular attention to the construction and transport sectors. Buildings in Minnesota (including our homes, commercial buildings, and large apartment buildings) consume 40% of the energy in the state. Many of our existing buildings are not energy efficient, which means, in other words, that buildings represent a huge opportunity to cut energy waste and save money, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is for this reason that energy efficiency was so heavily promoted in the IRA. The bill provides tax breaks and rebates on everything from efficient doors and windows, insulation, heat pump water heaters and more. In Minnesota, we can capitalize on this progress by ensuring that all new construction is built to the highest possible energy efficiency standards by updating our existing building codes.

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Transportation is another sector that deserves increased attention as it is the largest contributor to Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2005, we have managed to reduce these emissions by only 7%. Minnesota’s car cleanliness standards, introduced last year, will help, but we can and must go further. We can use federal funds from the IIJA to build an electric vehicle charging network across the state to accelerate consumer adoption of electric vehicles. We can also support a clean fuel standard that will reduce the use of carbon-intensive fuels as well as create incentives to switch to low-carbon alternatives, including electricity, hydrogen and biofuels.

Workforce and innovation

Global investment in the energy transition in 2021 was $755 billion BloombergNEF. We expect 2022 numbers to break all records for investment in energy and climate technology to date.

Gregg Mast

The market is already giving clear signals that IIJA and IRA investment will be a game-changer in energy system transition and open up additional avenues for new clean technologies. In the weeks following the adoption of the IRA, companies announced plans to build new facilities in the US and North America to meet growing demand for electric vehicles and infrastructure, batteries and grid upgrades. In fact, we saw it right here at home at the Cummins facility in Fridley, which recently announced it would start producing hydrogen cells. Company executives said the IRA provided the business incentives needed to make this strategic investment decision. Senator Tina Smith, chief advocate for clean energy in Washington, D.C., recently hosted a roundtable with my organization, along with a dozen clean energy business leaders, to discuss this and other opportunities for job creation and energy innovation made possible by IRA. .

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Taking full advantage of the economic opportunities at this unprecedented moment will require collaboration, investment, and a commitment to making Minnesota a regional and global leader in energy and clean technologies. In particular, this means investing in the commercialization of clean energy technologies and the workforce needed to implement these solutions, as well as supporting efforts to increase production incentives to support domestic suppliers.

Using Federal Funds with Matching State Dollars

The passage of the IIJA, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Intellectual Property Act provides an exceptional opportunity to accelerate our progress in providing clean, affordable, and reliable energy solutions that benefit all Minnesotans. But the adoption of these bills was only the beginning. Minnesota is to receive about $7.3 billion through the IIJA to fund transportation, water and energy infrastructure projects. About 80% of this federal money requires a state subsidy. Minnesota has already squandered some of those funds due to inaction during the last legislative session. The provision of appropriate public funding early in this session is paramount to keeping Minnesota competitive in its efforts to secure federal funds supported by businesses and communities whose projects will benefit from this unique opportunity.

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As Minnesotans, we probably won’t tell anyone, but we know we’re the best in the Midwest, if not the country. We are home to the most Fortune 500 businesses per capita and are one of the top states in terms of economic opportunity. But we are also home to the second fastest warming state in the country. It is imperative that politicians on both sides of the aisle work together to take action in this legislative session to implement this ambitious list of policies. These are critical building blocks that ensure that Minnesota paves the way for harnessing the vast economic and job potential provided by transforming our energy system, while ensuring a safe, sustainable and innovative future that allows all Minnesota to thrive and prosper.

Gregg Mast is the CEO of Clean Energy Economy MN.

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