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100% carbon-free electricity standard passes Legislature

Minnesota law will soon require electricity to be carbon-free by 2040, as the 100% clean electricity bill heads to Governor Walz’s desk. This is one of Minnesota’s largest-ever moves to address climate change. It is the result of more than four years of work by the Governor and legislative leaders, environmental experts, utilities, labor, consumer groups like CUB, and many others, and has passed thanks to the support of thousands of engaged Minnesotans from across the state. 

Here’s what the bill (HF 7/SF 4) does.

Requires Minnesota’s electric utilities to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Utilities must reach interim benchmarks along the way: by 2030, 80% carbon-free electricity for investor-owned utilities and 60% for cooperative and municipal utilities; by 2035, 90% for all utilities. Utilities must also provide 55% renewable power by 2035. (Renewable energy, as defined in the bill, does not include some carbon-free sources, like nuclear power and new large hydropower.)

Protects consumers and the grid. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) may modify or delay these standards if necessary to protect reliability or affordability. The PUC is also required to maximize the provision of affordable electricity to Minnesotans, particularly low-income consumers.

Focuses on environmental justice. Utilities must report on impacts to “environmental justice areas.” The PUC must maximize support for workers and air quality improvements in environmental justice areas.

Allows a utility to use Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to meet the standard. RECs are how utilities in Minnesota and nationwide track renewable energy. Utilities may purchase RECs if needed to meet the standards in this law, for example to offset emissions from power generation that might only be partly carbon-free or to offset the carbon content of energy they take from the regional transmission grid.

Supports local workers and local benefits. The PUC must maximize the creation of high-quality local jobs, recognize the rights of workers to organize, ensure that workers have the tools and opportunities necessary to adapt to the energy transition, and ensure that all Minnesotans share the benefits of clean air and the clean energy economy. Utilities must report on the number of Minnesotans hired to construct energy facilities, efforts to retain workers from shuttered power plants, and efforts to increase workforce diversity. The bill includes preferences for local job creation and domestically produced materials. 

This is a moment for celebration. The bill is an enormous step forward for Minnesota. We join a growing list of states with laws for 100% clean electricity. Much remains to be done to reach the targets in this bill – and to equitably decarbonize heating, transportation, and the rest of the economy – and CUB is already getting to work. 

Onward!

Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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