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Lawmaker’s View: Renewables already bringing savings to Northeastern Minnesota

It's frustrating when our bills go up, but the recent editorial casting blame for Minnesota Power's proposed rate increase largely on renewables missed the mark entirely (Our View: "Renewable energy coming with a price," Nov. 14).

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It’s frustrating when our bills go up, but the recent editorial casting blame for Minnesota Power’s proposed rate increase largely on renewables missed the mark entirely (Our View: “Renewable energy coming with a price,” Nov. 14).
Not only are the installation and operating costs of wind and solar dropping dramatically, clean energy already is saving us money and supporting jobs right here in our own communities - not to mention advancing our collective efforts to reduce carbon emissions. First, it’s important to remember that Minnesota Power has a complex group of customers to serve. Apart from more than 100,000 residents and businesses, the utility serves 15 or so immense commercial customers in the mining and timber industries. This can make managing its system fairly complicated. But it also means Minnesota Power is uniquely positioned to use abundant wind energy that works around the clock.Now, it’s understandable that folks remain confused about the true cost of wind and solar. The prices have come down so fast it can be tough to keep up. Just since 2009, the cost of wind has dropped 61 percent while solar has come down 82 percent. Imagine if your own mortgage or rent payment got cut in half. That’s the kind of sale utilities are seeing on renewables, and the numbers are predicted to continue dropping.By taking advantage of shifting markets for wind and meeting the state’s current renewable-energy standard 10 years early, Minnesota Power and its customers already have saved $35 million, according to recent public filings. In addition, Minnesota Power also reported that those savings are set to continue for at least the next 15 years to the tune of over $42 million.A lot of the savings come because wind and solar energy don’t rely on imported fuels with prices that can fluctuate wildly from month to month and year to year. Instead, utilities can invest in wind and solar energy up front and not worry about fuel costs - because there are none.With those investments come jobs to transport wind turbines through our ports, jobs to construct the turbines and solar arrays, and jobs to maintain the wind farms and solar arrays moving forward. With solar and wind costs falling through the floor, these savings and the jobs that come with them are only going to grow.In addition to cheap and cost-certain renewables, other parts of the Minnesota Power system can continue to be much more efficient and cost-effective. In a recent deal with large mining customers, Minnesota Power decided to lift its restrictions for efficient power plants built on-site. These new combined heat and power systems can cut energy needs in half by using waste heat from the system. Cutting that waste reduces costs for everyone, making large customers and the jobs they create more competitive.Minnesotans can take note of a recent report released by the University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab, which highlighted, in part, that the clean-energy economy is continuing to expand across Minnesota. The report included modeling that planned renewable projects will result in over $7 billion in direct investment, 5,000 jobs related to construction alone, and nearly 4,000 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.In short, Minnesota Power already has saved its customers millions by shifting to low-cost wind and solar. With so many stories about new technology that can dramatically change the way we live our lives, it’s important to remember that low-cost energy options don’t just exist in theory, they exist right in our own backyard. We can all look forward to further advanced technology, real cost savings and a sustainable future. Rep. Erik Simonson of Duluth represents Minnesota House District 7B. On Nov. 8, the DFLer was elected to represent Minnesota Senate District 7. He wrote this for the News Tribune.It’s frustrating when our bills go up, but the recent editorial casting blame for Minnesota Power’s proposed rate increase largely on renewables missed the mark entirely (Our View: “Renewable energy coming with a price,” Nov. 14).
Not only are the installation and operating costs of wind and solar dropping dramatically, clean energy already is saving us money and supporting jobs right here in our own communities - not to mention advancing our collective efforts to reduce carbon emissions. First, it’s important to remember that Minnesota Power has a complex group of customers to serve. Apart from more than 100,000 residents and businesses, the utility serves 15 or so immense commercial customers in the mining and timber industries. This can make managing its system fairly complicated. But it also means Minnesota Power is uniquely positioned to use abundant wind energy that works around the clock.Now, it’s understandable that folks remain confused about the true cost of wind and solar. The prices have come down so fast it can be tough to keep up. Just since 2009, the cost of wind has dropped 61 percent while solar has come down 82 percent. Imagine if your own mortgage or rent payment got cut in half. That’s the kind of sale utilities are seeing on renewables, and the numbers are predicted to continue dropping.By taking advantage of shifting markets for wind and meeting the state’s current renewable-energy standard 10 years early, Minnesota Power and its customers already have saved $35 million, according to recent public filings. In addition, Minnesota Power also reported that those savings are set to continue for at least the next 15 years to the tune of over $42 million.A lot of the savings come because wind and solar energy don’t rely on imported fuels with prices that can fluctuate wildly from month to month and year to year. Instead, utilities can invest in wind and solar energy up front and not worry about fuel costs - because there are none.With those investments come jobs to transport wind turbines through our ports, jobs to construct the turbines and solar arrays, and jobs to maintain the wind farms and solar arrays moving forward. With solar and wind costs falling through the floor, these savings and the jobs that come with them are only going to grow.In addition to cheap and cost-certain renewables, other parts of the Minnesota Power system can continue to be much more efficient and cost-effective. In a recent deal with large mining customers, Minnesota Power decided to lift its restrictions for efficient power plants built on-site. These new combined heat and power systems can cut energy needs in half by using waste heat from the system. Cutting that waste reduces costs for everyone, making large customers and the jobs they create more competitive.Minnesotans can take note of a recent report released by the University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab, which highlighted, in part, that the clean-energy economy is continuing to expand across Minnesota. The report included modeling that planned renewable projects will result in over $7 billion in direct investment, 5,000 jobs related to construction alone, and nearly 4,000 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.In short, Minnesota Power already has saved its customers millions by shifting to low-cost wind and solar. With so many stories about new technology that can dramatically change the way we live our lives, it’s important to remember that low-cost energy options don’t just exist in theory, they exist right in our own backyard. We can all look forward to further advanced technology, real cost savings and a sustainable future.Rep. Erik Simonson of Duluth represents Minnesota House District 7B. On Nov. 8, the DFLer was elected to represent Minnesota Senate District 7. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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