Minnesota sees continued clean energy gains

Minnesota’s clean energy transformation continues, buoyed by a combination of strong state policies, leadership on energy efficiency and falling prices for natural gas and renewables, finds an updated analysis from energy market research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

Minnesota is using renewable energy sources more than ever before, with 22 percent of its electricity coming from renewables in 2015, and natural gas is also becoming more important in its power mix, providing 13 percent in 2015,” said Colleen Regan, Head of North American Environmental Markets and Cross-sector Research at BNEF and co-author of the report. “These trends show that Minnesota is also making significant progress toward achieving its Clean Power Plan (CPP) targets for 2030, based on current and pipeline emission reduction activities.”

BNEF identified several recent trends that point to the transformation of the state’s energy landscape, including:

·      An increase in natural gas’ role as a power source in Minnesota, providing 13 percent of the state’s electricity and accounting for 32 percent of installed capacity in 2015. Meanwhile, coal-fired electricity generation fell from 52 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2015 and 396 MW of coal plants retired in 2015.

·      Renewable energy generation is expanding quickly in Minnesota as prices fall rapidly. Renewables including wind, biomass and others grew from 14 percent of Minnesota’s annual power generation in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015 thanks to falling prices and strong state policy support.

·      Between 2010 and 2015, Minnesota built 1.5 GW of utility-scale renewable capacity, mostly from wind power, and wind is already cost-competitive with coal in Minnesota, even without subsidies.

·      Solar power is trending up in Minnesota, with nearly 27 MW of residential and commercial-scale solar capacity installed in Minnesota through the end of 2015, in addition to 16 MW of utility-scale solar.

·      Biomass and Waste to Energy are other important renewable energy resources, as Minnesota is home to 9 WTE facilities.

·      BNEF estimates that Minnesota’s Solar Energy Standard will require 320 MW of additional solar capacity by 2020.

Minnesota’s leadership on energy efficiency is reflected by its ranking tenth in the US by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for utility and public benefits programs and policies in 2015.

Annual electric savings from actions taken under Minnesota’s utilities’ Conservation Improvement Programs reached 4.2TWh in 2014, with a benefit-cost ratio of 4:1 in 2013 alone, according to a study commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

BNEF’s report was developed in partnership with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

“What we see in Minnesota is similar to what we have seen in other parts of the country – states are benefitting from the transition to cleaner sources of energy,” said Lisa Jacobson, President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “Thanks to the state’s policy leadership, Minnesotans can look forward to seeing more cheap sustainable energy and less pollution from traditional energy sources. We’re encouraged by these results and look forward to watching as the sector continues to grow.”

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