Can’t ignore need to increase renewable energy

There is a proposal being pushed in the Legislature to make Minnesota the fourth state to set a 100 percent clean energy plan. It would require electricity providers to generate all energy from renewable sources by 2050.

One sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jamie Long, D-Minneapolis, claims the climate change “crisis is urgent.” He also said business as usual and relying on markets is not going to get the job done.

The crisis is real, but is the goal realistic?

The Renewable Electricity Futures Study found that an 80 percent renewables future is feasible with current technologies. And so some utility companies and Republicans don’t agree with the goal. They say 100 percent is too aggressive and too restrictive. While electric companies are way ahead in meeting old clean energy requirements, they prefer a slower approach to the increasing renewable energy.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski, who is the Republican lead on the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division, is against the proposed plan. He expressed concern over how the proposed mandate would affect families and farmers in paying for electricity.

“Agriculture and industry are right in the sights for these extreme environmentalists and I’m very concerned about what this means for the future of our ability to compete for jobs and industry in southwest Minnesota and across our state.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is also not a fan of the proposal, but he does leave the door open to compromise.

“We should work toward providing more incentive, more carrots, rather than more sticks to get people where we want to,” Gazaelka said.

Swedzinski is right to look out for his constituents in southwest Minnesota. But let’s put this in perspective. The year 2050 is 30 years away and nobody know for sure how fast technology will advance during that time period. The state needs to push ahead with renewable energy on a fast track.

The Senate sponsor of the renewable energy mandate, Sen. Nick Frentz, says he is open to different approaches and open to compromise. And that’s is exactly what is needed.

It’s time to come to terms with the urgent issue of reducing the state’s carbon footprint. A more balanced approach will work as long as it keeps the state on an aggressive path to more efficient and clean energy.