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Minnesota Power Announces Carbon-Free Plan

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Minnesota has lagged in carbon-emissions goals set by state government, but the region's two largest utilities have announced plans to be carbon-free in the coming decades. (Adobe Stock)
Minnesota has lagged in carbon-emissions goals set by state government, but the region's two largest utilities have announced plans to be carbon-free in the coming decades. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
January 13, 2021

DULUTH, Minn. - Minnesota's second-largest utility has laid out new carbon-emissions goals. The effort is getting praise for helping reduce the industry's impact on climate change, but a key element is drawing some questions.

Minnesota Power, which provides electricity in the northeastern part of the state, has said it wants to be 100% carbon-free by 2050. Josh Skelton, the company's chief executive, said setting that timeline gives it a lot of room to make transitions.

"And the longer term-goal allows time," he said, "allows time for techonology to develop, for us to make a thoughtful transition that doesn't sacrifice reliability or affordability in the region."

He said 50% of Minnesota Power's output already is renewable, with a goal of 70% by 2030. To get there, it will add an estimated 400 new megawatts of wind and solar energy, and it will close its last two coal-fired plants but also keep pursuing a new natural-gas plant just across the border in Wisconsin. Environmental groups believe Minnesota Power should avoid any fossil fuels, but the company has insisted that it needs a "bridge" to balance the needs of customers.

Gregg Mast, executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, said he also questions the need for a natural-gas facility in the plan, in part for its potential impact on ratepayers. Overall, however, he pointed to similar goals announced by Xcel Energy in 2018 as part of a movement by regional utilities that puts the state on a better path to cut emissions.

"We're really fortunate that they are moving toward cost-effective, clean and reliable sources for energy," he said.

Still, Mast said his group would like to see more emphasis on energy efficiency for buildings, as well as cleaner technology for transportation. No matter the sector, he said progress will depend on whether technology for renewables can be more cost efficient, but added that there are promising signs it will be.

Disclosure: Clean Energy Economy Minnesota & Clean Grid Alliance Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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