The Potluck

Gov. Walz signs bill mandating 100% carbon-free energy by 2040

By: - February 7, 2023 3:33 pm

Gov. Tim Walz at the St. Paul Labor Center on Tuesday, Feb 7, signing a bill into law that mandates Minnesota utilities transition to carbon-tree energy by 2040. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday signed a bill mandating Minnesota utilities to transition to carbon-free energy by 2040.

The bill requires Minnesota utilities to meet two standards: 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, with incremental deadlines to meet until 2040. And, by 2035, the utilities must show that at least 55% of their energy sales are from renewable sources — wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass. Nuclear power is not considered a renewable source under the bill.

Walz signed the bill at the St. Paul Labor Center surrounded by climate change activists, construction workers and DFL lawmakers.

“Minnesotans are not going to wait any longer. They made it clear with their voices … They made it clear with their votes that they expect movement around climate change to happen, and it is happening today,” Walz said.

Democrats said the bill provides flexibility to allow utilities to reach the standards and maintain affordability and reliability. If a utility can’t meet the carbon-free or renewable deadlines, it can pay for energy credits instead of buying or generating carbon-free or renewable energy. 

Some smaller utilities in greater Minnesota may be forced to pay for the credits by raising the prices they charge customers. Utilities can also ask for an “off ramp” if they can demonstrate the standards would drive up costs or affect energy reliability.

On Monday, North Dakota officials said they are moving toward suing Minnesota over the new law, arguing it would affect North Dakota utilities and violate the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

When asked about the potential lawsuit, Walz said he’s certain about the bill’s language.

“I’m confident this will stand up. (It’s) unfortunate that they’ve chosen to go this direction, but the fact of the matter is Minnesota is moving into the future and they’re going to have to come sometime,” Walz said. 

The bill passed the Legislature along party lines, with Republicans in opposition — GOP lawmakers called the legislation the “blackout bill.”

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.