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Commissioner’s View: Walz’s plan will keep lights on for Minnesotans — and then some

Steve Kelley

Terry Jarrett, commenting from Missouri, missed the mark in his recently published opinion in the News Tribune (Statewide View: “Minnesotans ought to be concerned by state's sweeping energy transformation,” March 25). Minnesotans can be assured that Gov. Tim Walz’s One Minnesota Path to Clean Energy, supported by chief authors Sen. Nick Frentz and Rep. Jamie Long, will not only keep the lights on by maintaining the reliability of our electricity grid, it will drastically cut air pollution, create jobs and opportunity for people across Minnesota, and keep energy costs low for Minnesota families.

Clean energy is reliable. Wind and solar are variable resources, but they are extremely dependable. No power plant runs 100 percent of the time. What keeps the lights on is having a large interconnected electric grid. There are literally thousands of electric generators on a grid, and they all provide backup to each other.

For instance, during the polar vortex, 31 percent of Minnesota’s electric energy came from wind, lessening the strain on traditional resources like natural gas. The large interconnected electric grid is why, with planning and long-term policy direction, our electric utilities will be able to provide all the power we need, carbon-free.

Clean energy is affordable. Wind energy is currently the cheapest electricity generator in the upper Midwest, and solar energy is similarly cost-effective. Building new coal and natural gas plants is often more expensive than renewable energy. Furthermore, the Path to Clean Energy aims to drive down energy costs by boosting money-saving energy-efficiency measures for Minnesota households.

Clean energy creates Minnesota jobs. Clean-energy jobs across the state (40 percent are in nonmetro Minnesota) will continue to grow. In fact, solar jobs alone are growing twice as fast as other job sectors in the state. Additionally, Gov. Walz’s plan prioritizes local jobs by requesting the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission consider the use of prevailing wages in issuing permits for clean-energy projects. Together, we can support and create good-paying local jobs for Minnesotans in the clean-energy economy.

Clean energy builds a better tomorrow. By transitioning to 100 percent carbon-free energy, Minnesota will have healthier, cleaner air through a significant reduction in greenhouse gases. Clean energy is, in fact, clean, and it is the future that we want for our children.

Finally, Jarrett, despite being an energy attorney and consultant, apparently did not do his homework with regard to Germany’s clean-energy initiative. Polling data continuously show that the German public remains fiercely supportive of the country’s transition to clean energy. By switching to energy-efficient appliances and low-energy light bulbs, German households have curbed energy costs and reduced energy consumption by 10 percent over the last 20 years. (In the U.S., energy consumption has increased by 20 percent over the same time period.)

Minnesota has the chance to be a national leader by bringing our state’s electricity sector to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. There is no need to let inaccurate claims from those outside our state get in the way.

Steve Kelley is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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