The measure has already passed the House and advocates say the bill is essential to reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Minnesota Senate is debating a bill Thursday that would require the state’s large electric utilities to derive 100 percent of their energy from carbon-free resources by 2040.

The measure has already passed the House and advocates say the bill is essential to reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Tim Walz has also included carbon-free goals in his budget plans and is expected to sign the legislation once it is approved.

“This is what the people want,” Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, the bill’s chief sponsor said at the start of the floor debate. “Carbon emissions are the number one threat to our planet and they’ve been rising. Climate change is coming, it’s been here and it affects everything we do.”

Senate Republicans say the plan is too ambitious and will lead to higher costs and energy shortages. They’re nicknamed the legislation the “Blackout Bill.”

Instead, GOP lawmakers proposed a more modest transition to carbon-free energy which they say is not reliant on unproven technologies.

“Unfortunately, the Democrat majority has decided to push for strict mandates on Minnesota’s utilities toward carbon-free energy at a pace current technology cannot support,” said Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton, the lead Republican on the Senate energy committee. “Hope is not a plan.”

What does the bill do?

Under the legislation, electric utilities will have to produce 100 percent of their energy from carbon-free sources. Clean, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are preferred, but there’s also the inclusion of carbon-free methods nuclear, hydroelectric, biomass and hydrogen.

Other fuels, such as natural gas and propane, would still be available to residents to heat their homes and cook their steaks.

The Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, would oversee the transition and the panel has “off ramps” to modify or delay the goal if renewable energy is found to be too unreliable or expensive.

Utilities could also take advantage of renewable energy credits to meet the carbon-free energy goals which hit 80 percent by 2030 before the 100 percent requirement in 2040. Smaller providers, such as local cooperatives, would have to meet a less ambitious standard.

Why is it important?

It is settled science that human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, are causing temperatures to climb and the climate to change. Supporters of the bill say 21 other states already have similar goals for 100 percent renewable or clean energy.

Minnesota has long had clean energy goals. In 2007, the Legislature put in place a 25 percent renewable by 2025 standard and the state met the benchmark seven years early.

A recent report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Commerce found the state’s greenhouse gas emissions declined by 23 percent between 2005 and 2020.

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