Minnesota has become a national leader in clean energy investments, ranking 8th in the country in total clean energy patents and ranking 7th in the nation for installed wind capacity. In 2014, wind energy accounted for approximately 16 percent of electricity generated in Minnesota. Today, Minnesotans receive more than 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, and biomass resources.
However, Minnesota consumes much more energy than it produces – ranking 33rd in total energy production in the United States. In 2014, Minnesota consumed 3.5 percent of the country’s total energy, yet produced only 0.54 percent according to a new Midwest Economic Policy Institute Economic Commentary [PDF]. To encourage future economic growth, the state should strive to produce as much energy as it consumes. Investment in new energy sources and new technologies should be considered to make-up this energy shortage.
Minnesota continues to be a leader of clean energy. Investments in clean energy projects have enhanced Minnesota’s reliance on renewable energy and biofuel production. Minnesota’s legislation created a mandatory renewable portfolio standard in 2007. The renewable energy standard (RES) requires that public utilities, electric cooperatives, municipal power agencies, and power districts operating in Minnesota have at least 25 percent of retail electricity sales generated by renewable sources by 2025, with higher standards for Minnesota’s largest power utility company, Xcel Energy.
Wind serves as the primary renewable energy source in the state. Previous wind investments already prevent the emission of 4.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from Minnesota and save 2.8 billion gallons of water every year. Wind power also supports high-paying jobs in Minnesota’s economy.
Construction of wind energy projects create and save good, blue-collar construction and operations jobs. Workers in wind energy earn higher wages than Minnesota’s average. Average annual wages in the clean energy sector were estimated at $71,000 in 2015, 42 percent higher than the statewide average for all jobs. A researcher, manufacturer, installer, or maintenance worker on wind projects earns an average of $61,500 in salary – still $11,500 more than the average Minnesotan employee. Employment in the clean energy sector has almost doubled from 2000 to 2014, with more than 15,000 people employed in clean energy jobs in 2014.
Minnesota needs to continue to develop effective long-term energy strategies to ensure low prices for residents and businesses and, as a result, a stable economy in the future. Clean energy investments can increase the state’s economic competitiveness, provide high-paying jobs, improve health and environmental wellness, and encourage business growth in Minnesota. The state is well-positioned to take advantage of renewable energy sources, and will develop sustainable, long-term energy sources that provides both economic and environmental benefits.