Republican version of ‘Clean Energy First’ is ‘clean’ in name only

The Senate Energy Committee this week approved Republicans’ version of a “Clean Energy First” bill in an effort to move the state toward prioritizing clean energy. While the bill does call for increased clean energy, it is a weak and insufficient response to the climate crisis, and the bill’s loopholes and off-ramps could even move Minnesota backward.

The bill attempts to move toward ‘clean energy first’ by strengthening the state’s preference for carbon-free and renewable energy when utility companies need to replace or increase power, and it provides a flexible list of what types of resources can be counted as clean energy. It generally requires utilities to add or replace power with clean energy, unless the costs of carbon-free or renewable options are “unreasonable,” or threaten reliability of the electric grid.

One controversial provision would lift Minnesota’s decades-old moratorium on new nuclear power and allow nuclear energy to be counted as a carbon-free energy resource. Other “carbon-free” options provided in the bill that have drawn criticism include the burning of municipal waste, carbon capture and storage technology, and hydropower. The bill has no goal for achieving a carbon-free energy standard, does not promote efficient energy use, and shifts the costs of renewable energy to residential ratepayers.

97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. There is only a decade left to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or there will be decades more of ever-worsening climate impacts. This version of the bill is clean energy in name only and falls well short of the kind of response needed from the Legislature.

While the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a broader energy-related omnibus bill, DFLers are committed to working with our counterparts in the House and with Governor Walz, who have similar but stronger clean energy proposals that do not contain the same loopholes as those seen in the Republican version of the bill. (SF 955)