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Local View: Look beyond wind, solar to get to 100% carbon-free

From the column: "The simple fact is that we know the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Furthermore, global conflict has made it almost impossible to source the raw material needed for storage. There is also continued opposition to domestic mining."

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Peter Kuper / Cagle Cartoons
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Since 2007, Minnesota has accelerated its pathway to achieving cheaper and cleaner electricity by diversifying the grid to include more gas, solar, and wind. In fact, developers have taken advantage of several federal tax incentives to help deploy wind across Minnesota.

Today, Minnesota has competitive energy rates and a diversified electricity portfolio. According to the Energy Information Administration, 29% of the electricity generated in Minnesota is from renewables. That percentage continues to increase year over year.

At the same time, there are leaders in St. Paul interested in moving Minnesota to a 100% carbon-free marketplace. The Legislature has considered similar proposals in the past to move in that direction that ultimately did not pass.

Current legislation would require that all of Minnesota’s energy be produced from wind, solar, and battery storage. The simple fact is that we know the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Furthermore, global conflict has made it almost impossible to source the raw material needed for storage. There is also continued opposition to domestic mining.

In February 2021, wind production dropped to historic lows, which put the grid at risk. Thankfully, baseload power like coal, gas, and nuclear carried the weight to ensure the lights stayed on and people were safe.

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Texas wasn’t as lucky. A winter storm claimed nearly 100 lives when the state’s grid did not have adequate baseload and reliable power.

The Coalition for a Secure Energy Future believes a 100% carbon-free future is achievable if policymakers look beyond wind and solar to other zero-carbon resources. For instance, large hydro and nuclear should be included in legislation as carbon-free energy. The other technology that should be included is carbon capture sequestration, or CCS.

CCS is a technology that can be adapted to traditional fossil-fuel power generation to remove carbon from emissions and safely store it deep underground. CCS has broad bipartisan support, including Democratic senators from Minnesota and Republican senators from North Dakota.

Furthermore, President Joe Biden has made CCS a key component of his energy plan by expanding the tax credit (like the wind production tax credit) in the Inflation Reduction Act.

A recent study by the Center of the American Experiment found that deploying CCS would save $344 billion over 30 years compared to the current proposed plan and is the most affordable path to a carbon-free market.

This energy future can be achieved in Minnesota if we think outside the box to include emerging technologies to protect reliability and the pocketbooks of Minnesota consumers.

Luke Hellier of Lakeville, Minnesota, is executive director of the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future ( secureenergyfuture.org ), a nonprofit working to ensure affordable, reliable energy for Minnesotans. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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Luke Hellier

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