Will governor’s electricity plan be attainable?

Published 8:09 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Local stakeholders share pros and cons of plan


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s plan to make Minnesota electricity free from fossil fuels by 2050 is drawing mixed reactions from local stakeholders.

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Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services President and CEO Jim Krueger noted Minnesota utilities are incorporating wind, solar and renewable energy sources into their portfolios and over the last two years, Freeborn-Mower’s power supplier, Dairyland Power Cooperative, expanded its renewable energy portfolio with approximately 180 megawatts of wind power. Eighteen solar energy facilities have been installed, including a 1.5 megawatt solar facility outside Albert Lea.

“However, even as our industry embraces the adoption of renewable resources, we are concerned about proposals that appear to ignore the engineering limits of existing technology,” Krueger said in an email. “For example, during the last week of January we all experienced firsthand the life-threatening weather extremes of a polar vortex.”

He said demand for electricity increased as temperatures dropped.

“Unfortunately, at the very time we needed the electricity most, wind generation output throughout the entire Midwest dropped by 80 percent,” Krueger said. “Many wind turbines had to be shut off due to the extremely cold temperatures. The lights stayed on only because of fossil fuel plants that could be called and dispatched at will.”

Mariah Lynne, president/owner of renewable energy consulting firm Good Steward Consulting, called the plan “an excellent move forward for the state of Minnesota.”

She said Walz’s proposal makes her excited for her children and grandchildren because carbon is not environmentally friendly.

“Environmentally friendly is a very important thing for the generations to come,” Lynne said.

To her, renewable energy has become a mainstream energy source.

“That also shows the state’s commitment to energy production in the state of Minnesota through renewable energy production,” Lynne said.

She said the plan is possible.

“With advancements in technology and the continued interest by ratepayers and customers, this is our future,” Lynne said.

To Krueger, even as more renewable energy is incorporated, “we still need a balanced, all-of-the-above generation portfolio strategy to maintain the affordability, reliability and sustainability of our national electric grid.”

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said though she does agree with Walz in principle, “I do have a few issues with the way he is going about it.”

She said a more balanced approach is needed, including introducing more electric vehicles into the market and incentivizing power companies to provide more power charging stations.

“Let’s work on that, because if we have more electric vehicles, that’s going to reduce carbon emissions,” Bennett said.

She said after speaking with Freeborn-Mower Cooperative, she worries Walz’s plan would put people at risk of having unreliable power sources, potentially causing brownouts and blackouts.

“It’s going to create issues,” Bennett said.

She expressed concern people would freeze if the plan is rushed and energy bills would substantially increase.

“That’s probably my highest concern with this proposal,” Bennett said.

She noted she is co-authoring a bill that would allow power companies to use more strategies to reduce carbon emissions.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Walz said his energy and climate plan is “different” because he worked with utilities to draft it. Walz’s plan allows each electric utility in the state to choose the pace at which it moves from coal toward carbon-free sources like nuclear, solar or wind.

The proposal would reportedly bring Minnesota’s energy policy in line with those of California and Hawaii, which both have goals of carbon-free electricity by 2050 or earlier.

Another part of Walz’s proposal would reportedly raise efficiency standards for investor-owned electric utilities and help for low-income households to make their homes more energy-efficient.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, was unavailable for comment.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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