Minnesota Coalition Helps State Buck National Trend of Renewable Energy Attacks
MINNEAPOLIS (May 22, 2013) – While clean energy activists in many other parts of the country are working to protect current renewable energy policies, Minnesota today has a new law that will spur growth in the state’s solar sector and will create good jobs for workers. Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a solar energy standard of 1.5 percent by 2020 for investor-owned utilities, with a goal of 10 percent solar energy by 2030, today at the State Capitol. The standard was part of a larger omnibus energy bill that passed the House and Senate last week.
Minnesota now joins the 16 other states that have enacted solar energy standards. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing solar states (based on solar capacity installed in 2011) have solar energy standards in place. Although Minnesota has a better solar resource than New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with a technical potential of 12,000 megawatts of installed capacity for rooftop solar alone, we generate a fraction of the solar energy as those states. That will change, however, with the implementation of this law. Already, there are more than 100 businesses existing in Minnesota’s solar industry, and that number is expected to grow as a result of this new law.
“While other states are stuck just trying to keep the status quo, Minnesota is moving forward with this commitment to renewable energy,” said Bob Ryan, District 11 Rapid Response Coordinator for the United Steelworkers. “This is a great victory for our state and really something for us to build on in the future.”
“This is a step forward for Minnesota to be competitive both nationally and globally to bring investment and jobs to our state. Businesses look for long-term policies to promote growth in their industry as part of the decision of where to start their company or to expand, and this policy will surely help give entrepreneurs the certainty they need to make that investment here in Minnesota,” said Pete Parris, Political Director for Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 10 and a member of the Minnesota BlueGreen Alliance Steering Committee.
The legislation — along with efforts to strengthen the state’s Renewable Electricity Standard and reduce red-tape preventing investments in renewable energy in the state — was a focal point of the Minnesota Clean Energy & Jobs campaign. The campaign mobilizes labor, energy, faith, youth, and conservation groups to advance groundbreaking state legislation that creates jobs for Minnesotans and generates clean, local, renewable energy while protecting our health and the air we breathe.
“I could not be prouder that the BlueGreen Alliance played such a vital role in the this coalition of labor, environmental, faith and youth organizations — our collective efforts really helped move this forward and bring new prominence to the issue of clean energy and jobs,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “There’s still work to do, but certainly we can look at what is happening elsewhere and say that Minnesota is standing out as a national leader on clean energy — thanks in part to the work of this coalition.”
Attempts to weaken or eliminate clean energy policies in states such as Ohio and North Carolina this year were part of a larger effort nationwide. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — an entity funded by billionaires that seeks to protect their interests at the expense of the vast majority of Americans — have put forward model legislation utilized by far-right lawmakers to attack a number of important issues, including clean energy, at the state level.
“Nationally, this trend of clean energy attacks is really worrisome,” said Foster. “We’re thankful for the leadership of Governor Dayton and the authors in the Senate and House — Senator John Marty and Representative Melissa Hortman — who understand that clean energy means a stronger economy and a cleaner environment. Those are certainly two things that are in the best interest of the citizens of our state.”