Conservation Minnesota

Clean Power is the Plan – Renewable Energy is our Future

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Wind power and solar panels are being used to produce clean energy.

Courtesy: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) recently turned one year old and this is a major step towards lowering our carbon emissions from domestic energy production and furthering America’s commitment to the United Nations Paris Agreement. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the first ever U.S. standards for carbon pollution originating from power plants under the Clean Air Act. This is a big deal and yet very few people are familiar with the CPP and what it could mean for Minnesota’s health and energy future. That is why I would like to outline some recent successes of our renewable energy work in Minnesota and some of the problems we will face if we continue to burn coal.

There are currently over 15,000 clean energy jobs here in Minnesota and that number is growing with estimates that we could reach over 35,000 jobs if we continue on our current renewable energy path by 2030. With no natural gas, coal, or oil naturally occurring here, the best way we can make homegrown energy in Minnesota is through renewable sources.

Burning coal for energy has a big impact on our health. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) coal power plants don’t just emit carbon dioxide – they are also our biggest source of airborne mercury that contaminate our surface waters and soil. Coal fired power plants also emit nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide (source of acid rain), and particulate matter (causes asthma and effects those with asthma) that can all have adverse effects on our health.

If this isn’t enough to make you excited about the CPP and Minnesota’s renewable energy future, perhaps these key economic findings from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development will:

  • Clean energy employment went up 78% between January 2000 and the first quarter of 2014
  • Average annual wages in clean energy were 42% higher than the statewide average for all jobs
  • MN ranked 8th in the U.S. for total clean energy patents in 2013 – a decade ago we were only ranked 20th
  • Wind power has seen $7.6 billion invested in sector projects since 2010

All these amazing benefits to our economy and our health that come from renewable energy cannot be overlooked and those who advocate for good paying jobs and local energy should be doing everything in their power to help grow these investments and opportunities for the good of Minnesota. Even some of those who don’t think climate change is a threat and don’t think coal is causing harm to Minnesotans can see the benefit that this will bring to our economy.

Unfortunately, the Clean Power Plan is not currently being implemented due to a stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. The good news is that we can continue advocating for the implementation of the CPP’s suggestions and goals no matter the court’s outcome. When it comes to energy and conservation we must continue working for our economy, our health, and future generations.

If you would like to know more about how you can get involved in clean energy work in the south metro, please email me at avery@cosnervationminnesota.org to learn more!

About Avery Hildebrand

Avery Hildebrand
Born in Minneapolis and currently residing in Taylors Falls, Hildebrand earned his degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. An avid fisherman, who once worked as an aquatic invasive species watercraft inspector, his perfect day in Minnesota includes good friends and fishing, which pairs nicely with his favorite place in the state, which he describes as the non-motorized portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
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