Gov. Walz's 2050 carbon-free electricity plan gets first hearing

AP image - Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz's plan for Minnesota to get 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 was criticized Tuesday at its first legislative hearing, with representatives from some of the state's smaller utilities saying they can't meet that goal.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 8:25 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz's plan for Minnesota to get 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 was criticized Tuesday at its first legislative hearing, with representatives from some of the state's smaller utilities saying they can't meet that goal.

Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley told the House climate committee that the Democratic governor's plan is ambitious. But he said the state's generating system is "aging and at a critical juncture," with plants that produce 70 percent of the state's electricity coming up for potential retirement over the next two decades. He said it will ensure that utilities replace them with wind, solar and other innovative sources, and increased energy efficiency, before turning to fossil fuels.

"Utilities will simply need to demonstrate why clean energy would not work whenever they propose to replace or add new generating capacity," he said.

Walz's plan, announced last week, seeks to build on the success of a 2007 law that required Minnesota utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The state largely achieved that goal in 2017 thanks to the growth of wind and solar power, and the topic of climate change has only grown hotter, hence the new goal for 2050.

But Joel Johnson, a lobbyist for the Minnkota Power Cooperative, testified that the governor's plan is "misguided and unrealistic" even with new technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Johnson added that even the big utilities that have set goals of going carbon-free by mid-century, such as Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, acknowledge they don't know yet how they'll hit the target.

Minnkota serves northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association in the Twin Cities area, said the plan is a "bad idea" for the 1.7 million state electric consumers served by cooperatives. He said Minnesota is a "minuscule contributor" to total global carbon emissions.

"The bill would have a devastating impact on electric consumers," Sullivan said. "It represents, in our view, nothing short of a first-order threat to the safety and reliability of Minnesota's grid."

Isaac Orr is a policy fellow at the Minnesota-based conservative think tank, the Center for the American Experiment, which released a report critical of the plan Tuesday. Orr said all Minnesota households would face higher energy costs and it would harm energy-intensive industries such as mining, manufacturing and health care, while doing little to reduce global warming.

"This does not pass a proper cost-benefit analysis," he testified.

Environmental groups, including Conservation Minnesota and the Sierra Club, supported the proposal while acknowledging the challenges.

"Our governor has called climate change an existential crisis," said Kevin Lee, director of the climate and energy program at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. "This problem is the defining challenge of our time, and it can feel overwhelming."

Rep. Jean Wagenius, the committee chairwoman and Minneapolis Democrat who's held several hearings on the threats that climate change poses, said she expected to table the bill for further consideration after taking more testimony in the evening and would not hold a vote Tuesday.

While the bill has support in the Democratic-controlled House, it's not scheduled for action in the Republican-led Senate. Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Farmington Republican, quipped that it "has a worse chance of becoming law than me being named the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 58640

Reported Deaths: 1677
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18641828
Ramsey7233261
Dakota4188104
Anoka3515114
Stearns286420
Washington200944
Nobles17536
Olmsted168823
Scott147918
Mower10942
Rice10138
Blue Earth8745
Wright8475
Carver8162
Clay76840
Sherburne7037
Kandiyohi6871
St. Louis48619
Todd4222
Lyon4213
Freeborn3581
Steele3381
Nicollet32913
Benton3153
Watonwan3010
Winona25416
Crow Wing22514
Beltrami2150
Le Sueur2101
Martin2045
Chisago1891
Goodhue1878
Otter Tail1853
Cottonwood1750
Becker1501
McLeod1480
Pipestone1479
Polk1453
Waseca1380
Douglas1360
Itasca13512
Carlton1320
Unassigned13241
Pine1280
Dodge1250
Murray1221
Isanti1160
Chippewa1011
Wabasha870
Brown862
Meeker852
Morrison851
Faribault830
Sibley822
Rock770
Koochiching743
Pennington731
Jackson720
Cass712
Mille Lacs693
Renville625
Fillmore610
Lincoln540
Grant523
Swift521
Yellow Medicine510
Pope460
Roseau460
Houston410
Norman370
Kanabec321
Redwood320
Wilkin323
Hubbard300
Aitkin291
Marshall290
Mahnomen261
Wadena240
Red Lake230
Big Stone220
Lake200
Stevens170
Clearwater150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 47424

Reported Deaths: 910
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10032206
Woodbury369151
Black Hawk308463
Linn227987
Johnson202116
Dallas184635
Buena Vista179112
Scott165514
Dubuque162331
Marshall142525
Pottawattamie128426
Story114114
Wapello87233
Muscatine84048
Webster7727
Crawford7263
Sioux6143
Cerro Gordo59617
Warren5471
Tama54529
Jasper46626
Wright4551
Plymouth4528
Louisa38014
Dickinson3774
Clinton3623
Washington29310
Boone2442
Hamilton2441
Franklin2339
Bremer2037
Clarke1953
Emmet1882
Carroll1851
Shelby1771
Clay1761
Hardin1730
Marion1620
Allamakee1544
Poweshiek1538
Des Moines1522
Jackson1481
Benton1461
Floyd1432
Mahaska13917
Guthrie1315
Cedar1281
Jones1272
Buchanan1231
Hancock1212
Butler1192
Henry1193
Pocahontas1151
Madison1142
Lyon1092
Lee1073
Cherokee1031
Clayton1023
Harrison1020
Humboldt1001
Delaware991
Taylor960
Iowa941
Monona910
Winneshiek911
Mills850
Page850
Calhoun832
Kossuth830
Sac820
Fayette810
Jefferson800
Palo Alto800
Osceola790
Mitchell780
Winnebago770
Grundy761
Union751
Monroe697
Worth650
Lucas574
Chickasaw540
Montgomery534
Davis521
Cass501
Howard490
Appanoose473
Greene390
Fremont370
Van Buren341
Keokuk331
Ida290
Audubon281
Adair270
Decatur230
Ringgold211
Wayne191
Adams160
Unassigned30
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