ST. PAUL, MN – State lawmakers rolled out an ambitious plan today designed to grow the solar energy industry in Minnesota and create thousands of good jobs. State Senator Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center) and State Representative Will Morgan (DFL – Burnsville) announced the introduction of the Solar Energy Jobs Act at the State Capitol, where they were joined by leaders from the business, labor and environmental communities. The bill will implement a 10 percent Solar Renewable Energy Standard, requiring utilities to meet the standard by 2030.
“We have an opportunity to create thousands of good, family-supporting jobs, reduce carbon pollution and make more of our state’s energy right here at home,” said Sen. Eaton. “We can build our solar capacity, bringing jobs and investment throughout the state, and we can start today.”
More than 100 businesses already exist throughout Minnesota in the solar industry. Implementing the Solar Energy Jobs Act will create over 2,000 permanent jobs in the first year after the standard is passed, and thousands of jobs over the life of the policy, according to analysis done through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) modeling software.
“Passing a solar energy standard will not only bolster these businesses, but also attract new companies to invest in one of Minnesota’s growing markets,” said Rep. Morgan. “Our state can’t afford to be left behind; we need forward-thinking policies that promote growth in up-and-coming sectors of the economy.”
Passing this standard would bring over $230 million in value-added investments in the state in just the first year, and much more over the life of the policy. In the U.S., 16 other states 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.
“These states have created an environment to build strong solar markets, and Minnesota should do the same,” said Lynn Hinkle, Director of Policy Development for the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA). “Passing a 10 percent by 2030 standard sends a strong, predictable, and long-term market signal to attract investment in Minnesota’s solar energy industry and accelerate job growth.”
The lawmakers said that implementing the policy will result in 80 megawatts of installed solar capacity in the first year, 1,000 megawatts (2 percent) by year 2023, and more than 5,300 megawatts by 2030. In 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Minnesota spent over $20 billion in total expenditures on energy sources imported from other states and countries.
“This is a great way for us to keep more money in our state,” said Andy Snoops from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 292. “Both in terms of family-supporting jobs and creating our own energy here instead of buying it from other states, this is a big win for our economy.”
Plus, Minnesotans want to see more solar power in their state. In a statewide poll conducted in January 2013 by Minnesota Environmental Partnership, 74 percent of voters polled expressed their support for Minnesota getting at least 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030. And 73 percent of Minnesota voters were willing to pay $1 more per month on their electricity bills for more solar power.*
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, yet we generate a fraction of the solar energy as those states.
“It may come as a surprise to some, but Minneapolis and St. Paul have identical or better solar resources than Houston, Texas and Jacksonville, Florida,” said Ken Bradley, Program Director of Environment Minnesota and the Chair of the Solar Works for Minnesota coalition. “We can stop importing energy and move our state to a better, cleaner renewable energy future.”