Senator Chuck Wiger: Renewable Energy Drive Sets Ambitious Goal

The environment is where we all meet, where all have a mutual interest. It is the one thing all of us share,” — Lady Bird Johnson

As Minnesotans, it is our responsibility to protect our environment. We are committed to acting locally, heeding the words of Pope Francis, who said: “We should not think that our efforts – even our small gestures – don’t matter. Virtue, including ecological virtue, can be infectious.”

We envision Minnesota having fresh air and clean water surrounded by lush greenery. We can only sustain that vision if we work together. Supporting renewable clean energy is part of the solution.

At the Legislature, a new bipartisan effort to have 50 percent of Minnesota’s electricity come from clean, renewable sources by 2030 is gaining support. A bill has been introduced to establish the new standard – 50 percent by 2030 – because it would be good for Minnesota’s economy, environment and health.

In 2000, renewable energy only accounted for four percent of the state’s electricity. Today, due to a bipartisan commitment to renewable energy development, 21 percent of Minnesota’s electricity comes from renewable sources. We can boost that to 50 percent without sacrificing affordability. This is partly because the costs for wind and solar energy have fallen dramatically.

Establishing our state’s renewable energy standard already has created thousands of new jobs for Minnesota. Increasing our clean energy goals will build on that progress, creating more jobs in emerging clean energy all across Minnesota.

Other good news:

  • From 2000 to 2014, clean energy jobs in Minnesota grew 78 percent, despite the recession. In comparison, the state’s total employment growth was only 11 percent.
  • Establishing a 50 percent renewable energy standard for Minnesota will create an estimated 1,500 new jobs per year between now and 2030.
  • Global demand for energy during that time is expected to increase by 31 percent, creating a significant market for Minnesota businesses to meet that demand.

Every year, Minnesota imports $13 billion of energy. By increasing the renewable energy we produce here in our state, Minnesota will reduce the amount we buy from other states and countries.

As a state senator, one of my goals is to increase Minnesota’s presence in the growing clean energy economy because these jobs are right here and can’t be shipped overseas. I am pleased that the solar technician program at Century College is providing one pathway for people seeking these jobs. The program prepares people to be solar installers, a job that is enjoying growing demand.

Our area high schools in District 622, plus White Bear Lake, Mahtomedi and Roseville, are focusing more on providing students with career pathways that will allow them to explore vocational opportunities in clean-energy jobs after they graduate.

The current bill (HF 1772/ SF 1531) to advance the new energy standard builds on the Next Generation Energy Act, which Minnesota enacted 10 years ago. That act moved Minnesota to more than 21 percent renewable energy and proved that we can have affordable, reliable and clean energy.

Locally, one of our most active environmental groups is the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative (MAGI). This group’s goal is to reduce carbon-emitting energy use, pursue and acquire renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and encourage an enduring community commitment to sustainability.

The group’s activities include participating in Earth Day fairs, holding town hall forums on energy issues, exploring opportunities for wind generation, developing strategies for promoting bicycling and publicizing local environmental activities and events.

MAGI collaborated with Century College to secure a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to complete a carbon footprint analysis for municipal facilities and activities. MAGI also has partnered with the Mahtomedi Area educational Foundation to establish the Green Initiative Fund. Tax-deductible contributions to this fund support renewable energy and environmental education projects and programs in the community such as the Zephyr Wind Project. The wind turbine in Mahtomedi stands as a tribute to that effort.

For more information and tips on how you can promote renewable energy, go to this Union of Concerned Scientists website:

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/increase-renewable-energy#.WMFv6FXyuUk

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

 

This column was first published in the White Bear Press.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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