Meaningful clean energy policy is on its way to the governor’s desk for signing after the House and Senate pass the Commerce & Energy Omnibus Bill. The bill creates crucial policy changes to guide energy investments and regulation while funding energy-related agencies and programs.
The bill includes an impressive list of new policies, many of which will help Minnesota reduce air pollution, help the state meet its greenhouse gas emission and renewable energy goals, and provide economic stimulus and community support. The diverse set of programs proves it is possible to find innovative bipartisan solutions rooted in compromise and coalition building. Key policies include energy efficiency technology investments, developing renewable natural gas from waste, supporting the economic transition of coal plant communities, building solar on schools and landfills, and new energy storage programs.
“The clean energy victories included in this year’s bill are a win for all Minnesotans. They take important steps to improve air quality, reduce emissions, and protect hard working Minnesotans,” said Paul Austin, Executive Director of Conservation Minnesota. “With the only divided legislature in the nation, Minnesota has demonstrated to other states and the federal government how to create public policy to make progress on clean energy.”
Three notable policies within the bill are:
The Energy Transition Office
Minnesota will create one of the first Energy Transition Offices in the nation—designed to protect communities and workers as outdated electricity infrastructure is retired. The Office will help to ensure an effective and equitable transition to a clean energy future in Minnesota.
The Natural Gas Innovation Act
The Natural Gas Innovation Act allows utilities to offer new energy technologies to consumers. Innovation by natural gas utilities will lower carbon emissions, creating a national model to pull more climate pollution out of natural gas while keeping consumer costs low throughout the state’s clean energy transition.
A “Buy Clean” Study
The “Buy Clean” Study is the first step toward incentivizing materials produced or mined close to home and created with lower environmental and emission impacts. The study examines the feasibility, economic costs, and environmental benefits of requiring “Buy Clean” products for construction materials in the renovation and construction of state buildings.
“Legislators and advocates should be proud of the strong energy bill passed today and the passage of the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act earlier this session,” said Nels Paulsen, Policy Director at Conservation Minnesota. “We haven’t seen such strong clean energy policies since the bipartisan effort to pass the Next Generation Energy Act in 2007.”
In May, the legislature secured its first bipartisan clean energy victory by passing the Energy Conservation & Optimization (ECO) Act—the first piece of major clean energy legislation passed since 2013. The ECO Act expands Minnesota’s existing energy efficiency program known as the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) to allow utilities to transition to cleaner fuel sources. It will also dedicate up to $12 million in new spending for efficiency measures for low-income customers, including renters and reduces emissions by conserving energy usage, resulting in less energy production.