Dayton, legislators should commit Minnesota to solar energyby Ken Bradley
Ken Bradley is director of Environment Minnesota, which describes itself as "a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization."
Living in the 21st century, we should depend less on coal and imported oil and rely more on clean, renewable sources like solar power. Solar power causes no pollution, never runs out, will create thousands of local jobs and is getting cheaper every year.
That's why Environment Minnesota is working with the Solar Works for Minnesota coalition to pass a solar energy standard that will ensure the state gets 10 percent of its energy from the sun by 2030. Solar Works for Minnesota is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofits, businesses and unions working collaboratively for the 10 percent solar standard. This standard will lead to the installation of roughly 5,200 megawatts of solar by 2030 — enough energy to power 700,000 homes.
What's the cost? In the early years of our initiative it would cost less than 20 cents a month for a residential customer, and it would reach a maximum of a dollar in the final years. To provide some perspective, Xcel Energy is currently seeking a $9 per month residential rate increase for upgrading its two nuclear power plants. So in the final years of our initiative, when our state would be installing significant amounts of solar energy every month, the effort would cost electricity consumers about one-ninth of what it will cost to upgrade the Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants.
Hundreds more Minnesotans are going solar every year, especially now that prices are dropping and innovative programs are making it easier than ever. And the combination of supporter activism and our advocacy is winning real results for solar power: Last year, Environment Minnesota and our Solar Works for Minnesota coalition partners helped pass a bill that makes it far easier and more affordable to install solar on public buildings.
But we can do more — much more. Our state imports more than $20 billion of dirty energy every year. Minnesota exports only $20 billion in products to the rest of the world. When we reduce our energy dependency, we reduce our state's trade deficit, which is good for everyone. Minnesota now gets less than 1 percent of its energy from the sun, even though we have far more solar potential than Germany, the world's solar leader, and solar potential comparable to that of Houston, Texas.
The 10 percent solar energy standard will not pass without strong support from Gov. Mark Dayton. Our legislative leaders must have the courage to stand up to utilities that are dragging their feet to keep consumers from generating their own power from solar. They've built their business around the dirty, dangerous fuels of the past, and they're reluctant to change.
It is time for Dayton and our legislators to pass a 10 percent by 2030 solar energy standard. It will reduce pollution, create jobs and boost Minnesota's economy while reducing our dependence on imported energy. Solar energy solves many problems. Now it is up to Dayton and the Legislature to execute the solutions so Minnesotans can take advantage of this untapped resource.