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Statewide View: No, the Minnesota Chamber does not oppose clean-energy policies

From the column: "On complicated policy issues, it’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. Energy is one of those issues. "

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Like most of Minnesota, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports cleaner, reliable, and affordable energy. We believe this balance is critical for our economy, and facts matter when making important policy decisions that affect every aspect of life in our state.

On complicated policy issues, it’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. Energy is one of those issues. There is a lot of fiction out there about Minnesota’s energy future, what it means to you, and where the business community stands.

Fact: Minnesota is making great strides toward cleaner energy and carbon-free goals. From 2005 to 2020, the amount of renewable energy on our electric grid increased from 5% to 25%. Our electric system is almost 50% carbon-free today and on track to be nearly 70% carbon-free by 2030 without new mandates. And Minnesota’s largest electric utilities plan to be 80% carbon-free by the 2030s and 100% carbon-free by 2050.

Fact: This progress has come at real costs — primarily paid for by electrical customers. From 2008 to 2018, Minnesota’s residential electrical rates increased more than twice as much as the national average. Commercial and industrial electrical rates increased 20 times more than the U.S. average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Fact: Affordable, reliable electricity is critical for good-paying jobs. Northern Minnesota knows better than any region in the state what affordable, reliable energy means to economic success. You need only look at last year’s closure of the Verso Corp. paper mill in Duluth and the subsequent loss of 300 jobs to understand the negative impact of high energy prices. From health care to mining to paper mills to manufacturing, energy affordability and reliability have an outsized impact on northern Minnesota’s way of life.

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Fact: Maintaining a reliable electricity supply requires technological advancement and expensive infrastructure upgrades. The experiences in California last summer and in Texas this winter show the critical need for a diverse, reliable, 24/7 energy supply. Our state has come perilously close to California-style blackouts during the depths of Minnesota winters. Fortunately, smart choices by Minnesota Power and other electric utilities pulled us through.

Fiction: The business community — and the Minnesota Chamber — oppose clean-energy policies. Some groups advocate for impractical policies that would jeopardize reliable, affordable electricity for residential and business customers alike. They want you to pay three times for the same energy: once to shut down useful power plants, once to build new renewable energy, and once again to pay for backup power sources. What’s worse, their approach would make Minnesota dependent on fossil fuel-fired energy imports during critical parts of the year and ban natural gas and propane in your home and business.

Fiction: All “clean-energy” mandates produce cost-effective clean energy. For decades, Minnesota policymakers have experimented with different ways to advance cleaner energy. Some of them have succeeded at this goal. Others have produced little benefit at significant cost. Your utility bill is not an endless pot of money for policy experiments.

Fact: We work hard to help our member companies reduce their energy consumption, divert waste, and minimize environmental impact. We advocate tirelessly for a competitive business climate and good-paying jobs. The Minnesota Chamber is a strong advocate for cost-effective energy conservation because it saves people money by reducing the amount of electricity and natural gas they use.

Cleaner, reliable, and affordable electricity is possible in Minnesota. Instead of focusing on fiction and fantasy, we should work together to find real solutions that allow for economic success and more good-paying jobs.

John Reynolds is the director of energy, telecommunications, and elections policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, based in St. Paul.

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John Reynolds

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