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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

MN tinkers with policy to speed up wind and solar projects

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Monday, March 25, 2024   

Minnesota has about 15 years to achieve its mandate of 100% carbon-free electricity from utilities.

To get there, clean energy voices say the permitting process has to move much faster, and they think legislation would make a difference.

Minnesota's carbon-free standard for 2040 was approved last year.

In this legislative session, lawmakers have followed up with a measure that aims to reduce the timeline for those seeking permits for wind, solar and power grid expansion projects.

Madelyn Smerillo - regional policy manager for the Clean Grid Alliance - said not only would it help with emission targets, but would also provide certainty to developers.

"The developers need to know when they're going to be able to get steel in the ground," said Smerillo. "They need to know when they can start their construction."

Researchers say Minnesota's current permitting process for solar projects has increased from an average of 300 days to nearly 550 days.

Among other things, the bill would remove duplications, and require state agencies to identify and solve problems early in the process.

For those worried about minimizing public engagement, supporters say the new plan doesn't sacrifice the ability for residents to have their say.

Smerillo contended the proposed changes would make it easier for the public to get a better understanding of clean energy development happening in their backyard.

"So they can clearly see," said Smerillo, "these are the projects that get a shorter timeline, these are the projects that have a longer timeline, and these are the requirements that are expected of all of them. "

The bill was drafted with input from nearly 30 stakeholders recommended by state regulators. It's been making its way through committees and could be included in a larger omnibus package.

The Senate version has Republican and Democratic sponsors, hinting at bipartisan support as the measure advances.




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