SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Yesterday, the House Climate and Energy Finance Committee advanced legislation that will help establish Minnesota as a clean energy leader. It invests a total of $175 million – $95 million from the General Fund and $80 million from the Renewable Development Account – in initiatives that address the climate crisis and lower energy costs while creating jobs and economic growth.
“As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Rep. Jamie Long (DFL – Minneapolis), chair of the Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. “Minnesotans are calling for us to address this crisis and transition to clean energy. The plan we passed invests in renewable energy and other initiatives that will lower energy costs and create good-paying jobs while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It will help make our state a clean energy leader.”
The bill contains funding for a variety of programs that will lower energy costs. It invests $30 million in the Weatherization Assistance Program that helps Minnesotans make their homes safer and more energy efficient. Since solar is expected to become the cheapest form of energy in the next five years, the bill expands the Solar for Schools grant program and creates a similar program to help local governments purchase and install solar panels on school buildings. It funds Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards program and allows more Minnesotans to access energy generated by community solar gardens. In addition to lowering energy costs, these initiatives will create good-paying jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Several provisions will help accelerate Minnesota’s transition to clean energy and prevent further climate change. The bill includes $10 million to establish an innovative finance authority that will fund clean energy projects, $15 million to provide grants for renewable energy integration and demonstration, and $5 million to create an Energy Alley startup fund. $3 million is included to help cities develop and implement climate action plans, with an additional $2 million set aside for communities impacted by the transition to clean energy. To ensure Minnesotans who face disproportionate impacts of climate change benefit from the transition to clean energy, the bill requires utilities, owners of solar gardens, and projects that receive RDA funds to issue annual reports on workplace diversity.
Other measures help develop and strengthen Minnesota’s energy grid. The bill allocates $20 million to match federal funds coming to the state thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It encourages utilities to install energy storage systems and directs Xcel to develop and operate a grant that will reduce the cost of energy storage. When combined with investments in clean energy development, these initiatives will create jobs, strengthen the grid, and improve Minnesota’s ability to withstand severe weather and other impacts of climate change.
To pave the way for electric vehicles, this legislation contains $7.2 million to install electric vehicle charging stations at state and regional parks, rest stops, and county government centers. It directs the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to update the state’s building codes so new and remodeled commercial buildings and select multifamily homes are better prepared to support electric vehicles. Funding and policies that will promote electric buses and electric school buses are included as well. These measures will help ensure Minnesotans can travel safely, prevent air pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, Minnesota’s largest source of these emissions.