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Embracing the Sun Won’t Burn Us

April 08, 2013 By Samantha Chadwick, Guest Commentary

It’s the 21st century. Embracing the sun won't burn us. Each year, Minnesota spends more than $20 billion importing coal, oil and other dirty energy. We need to invest in homegrown, clean energy to keep this money in the state's economy and create jobs. Minnesota is making important strides, passing the Next Generation Energy Act with broad bipartisan support in 2007. This legislation has helped to substantially increase renewable energy production, primarily wind. Last year's bonding bill had provisions making it far easier and more affordable to install solar on public buildings.

But we still get less than 1 percent of our energy from the sun, despite the fact Minnesota has more solar potential than Germany, the world leader in solar power.

Solar Works for Minnesota is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofits, businesses and unions working toward getting 10 percent of the state's energy from solar by 2030. The coalition has brought together partners, educating the public and working with elected officials to grow Minnesota's solar use. It's paying off: In his State of the State address, Gov. Mark Dayton urged legislators to help Minnesota go solar, saying “Are we doing all we can to utilize other renewables, such as solar, and also to make Minnesota the best place to locate these new industries and their jobs?... Use your past achievements as springboards for Minnesota’s next big leap toward a sustainable energy future."

Now, legislators are taking the lead and considering a new clean energy package that will put solar on thousands of rooftops across the state—as well as make big strides for wind power and energy efficiency. The legislature is moving forward energy packages that will establish a strong solar energy standard and set benchmarks to get Minnesota to 10 percent solar. Energy bills being considered would also expand the state's Renewable Energy Standard to 40 percent by 2030, increase energy efficiency, and make it easier for people and communities across the state to generate their own local clean power.

Not only will this clean energy package cut our dependence on dirty energy and reduce air, water and global warming pollution from power plants. It'll also boost Minnesota's economy and create thousands of good jobs across the state. There are already more than 100 solar businesses in the state, and they’re poised to grow.

Our elected officials are responding to Minnesotans' urgent call for more solar. But passing meaningful clean energy policy will still be an uphill battle. Some utilities are dragging their feet and actively working against clean energy. They've built their business around the dangerous fossil fuels of the past, and they're reluctant to change.

Clean energy advocates are meeting this opposition head on: The Solar Works for Minnesota coalition will continue to meet with legislators, testify at hearings, and push for more solar and clean energy in Minnesota. Strong voices must also come from outside the Capitol—from citizens, businesses and local officials across the state. Gov. Dayton and our legislators need to hear loud and clear solar and other clean, renewable energy is right for environment, our economy and our future.

Samantha Chadwick is an Advocate with Environment Minnesota, a statewide, citizen based environmental organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space.

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  • Andrea Lauer says:

    April 11, 2013 at 10:55 am

    As mayor of a city that has installed a 7.5kW solar PV system on the roof of its city hall I can state that solar works!Our goal was to offset part of our electric cost for city hall, and we’ve been able to do this. We’ve reduced our total kWh for city hall by 31% and when we did our budget for 2013 we reduced our utility cost for the general fund by $6,000.
    Our project used solar panels manufactured in MN and the solar installer was a MN company. It’s important to me that our project benefits not only our city, but other MN companies.
    Andrea Lauer
    Mayor, City of Royalton
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)