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Keep the renewable energy momentum rolling

Diversifying Minnesota's energy generation is a smart step toward a prosperous future. It wasn't all that long ago that our state was toward the bottom in terms of both conservation and clean energy consumption. Think back to 2007, when Minnesota passed the renewable energy standard (RES), signed into law by then-Gov. Pawlenty. It was a remarkable step toward preserving Minnesota's future, putting into law policies designed to shift power generation toward a more environmentally sound practice.

That was less than 10 years ago and Minnesota's wind and solar industries have exploded. While technology is continuing to improve every day, there is yet more to be done. While wind has now become the cheapest energy to purchase, its availability does not always match our consumption peak. Our Minnesota and national clean energy industries are working hard to refine systems to capture and store energy, thereby allowing continued consumption of clean energy during our busiest periods of any given day.

We should also give significant credit to our own local provider, Minnesota Power. Their business model projects a full one-third of their power generation to come from renewable sources. And they have outperformed the state mandate for renewable energy goals consistently year after year. We need utilities as a partner in our efforts and Minnesota Power has certainly been working hard in that effort.

Minnesota seems to understand that a clean and environmentally successful future does not continue to rely on coal-consuming energy plants. While I suspect we are a far piece off from complete independence from coal, we are well on our way. And that is exactly why Minnesota should not stop its progress now. To dilute our renewable energy standard would send a "we don't want you here" signal to emerging clean energy technology companies. It would slow our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most importantly, it would slow our momentum toward a sustainable future for Minnesota.

The Minnesota House GOP has proposed to reduce our RES. They want to include large hydroelectric plants in Manitoba as a "renewable energy source." While you can articulate an argument that large hydro is indeed renewable, it would be devastating to Minnesota's wind and solar industries. Considering that the average job in the wind energy industry pays $71,000 a year, I, for one, think we should support these industries, not drive them away.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.