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Local View: Minnesota is on its way to achieving energy independence

Minnesota ranks ninth in the nation for energy efficiency, and we’re No. 1 in the Midwest.

Solar plant with the wind farm in the summer season, hot climate
Solar plant with the wind farm in the summer season. Hot climate causes increased power production, and strong winds will add the power-generated, alternative energy to conserve the world's energy.
Kampan - stock.adobe.com
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In 2021, Minnesota energy imports fell to their lowest levels in over two decades — to just 10%. At a time of great market turbulence, this news, among other key clean energy trends, is a light at the end of the tunnel. These key trends are outlined in the 2022 Minnesota Energy Factsheet, a new report released by Clean Energy Economy MN and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

Factsheet shows that Minnesota is on its way to achieving energy independence through the addition of homegrown renewable resources and conservation practices that reduce energy waste. We don’t need to import energy that we don’t use. Minnesota has long taken reducing energy waste very seriously — with Minnesota utilities investing in cost-effective energy efficiency programs since the 1980s. And that work has paid off: Minnesota ranks ninth in the nation for energy efficiency, and we’re No. 1 in the Midwest.

To continue on this path — one that advances toward a clean energy future — Minnesota must make the most of the opportunities at our door. The bipartisan federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the biggest investment into infrastructure in our generation. Utilizing and leveraging these dollars to improve Minnesota’s energy infrastructure is critical.

The Minnesota Legislature has an important opportunity to enhance and decarbonize Minnesota's transportation sector to push us even further on our path toward energy independence through the IIJA. Minnesota is eligible to receive a total of $5 billion in transportation funding to modernize and improve its transportation infrastructure, including $68 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. By taking advantage of these federal resources, Minnesota has a chance to take a giant step forward in assisting and incentivizing EV adoption.

These investments will advance Minnesota’s clean energy transition. But what does this clean energy future look like and what kind of jobs are we talking about? When our organizations talk about a clean energy future, we’re talking about an entire ecosystem utilizing a diverse suite of clean, affordable and innovative technologies like energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grids and other low and zero-carbon energy sources.

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As two longtime clean energy professionals who have worked in clean energy long before this sector was recognized for its growth potential, we can’t begin to tell you how excited we are about Minnesota’s energy transformation. We are witnessing our energy system get cleaner and cheaper, all while adding thousands of family sustaining jobs and contributing millions of dollars in economic and tax benefits to small towns and big cities across the state.

We’re seeing recent college graduates dedicate their careers to sustainable engineering and design, and skilled professionals across the state developing and installing wind, community solar gardens and utility-scale solar projects. We’re seeing transportation crews from St. Cloud bring in wind turbines from the port of Duluth-Superior, and young computer programmers and artificial intelligence experts use their skills to make our buildings smarter and use less energy. The jobs are well-paid, and they are growing — twice as fast as jobs in Minnesota’s overall economy in the second half of 2020, according to the 2021 Clean Jobs Midwest - Minnesota report.

While energy markets continue to be dynamic, Minnesota’s clean energy progress is diversifying, which strengthens our economy and increases our resilience to withstand external shocks. Minnesota is on the right path to cleaner, reliable and affordable energy while dramatically reducing its carbon emissions. While we can’t let up, the transition to a clean energy economy is under way, and all of us should be proud that Minnesota is well positioned to continue to lead.

Gregg Mast serves as the executive director of Clean Energy Economy MN, a Minnesota nonprofit representing the business voice of clean energy. Lisa Jacobson serves as the president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization focused on advocating for the deployment of clean energy technologies.

Opine_Gregg Mast, CEEM.png
Gregg Mast, CEEM
Opine_Lisa Jacobson, BCSE.png
Lisa Jacobson, BCSE

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