Bills would require 10 percent of state’s electricity to come from sun

Lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature introduced bills this week to require 10 percent of the state’s electricity to be produced by solar energy by 2030.

The Senate author, Sen. Chris Eaton of Brooklyn Center said on Thursday’s Policast that establishing the standard would send a “strong, predictable long-term market signal to attract investment” in the state’s solar energy industry.

“It’s crucial that we start dealing with our carbon footprint here,” Eaton said. “Whether you believe the weather changes are caused by it or not, it’s becoming very clear that we need to do something different.”

Advocates say the the proposal could create 2,000 jobs in solar installation, manufacturing and training in the first year, according to modeling from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

But solar advocates admit the energy standard would also come with an estimated 1 percent per year rate hike.

The 10 percent solar standard is also opposed by Xcel Energy. In a statement emailed to MPR, Xcel Energy Regional Vice President Laura McCarten said the company doesn’t believe that the mandate is appropriate.

“Solar energy is projected to remain expensive relative to other clean energy resources such as wind power and conservation programs,” McCarten said. “That is why we support a more moderate approach for advancing solar energy, one that balances the focus on solar with the other, more cost-effective clean energy resources available.”

Utilities in the state are on track to meet a requirement to produce 25 percent of total electricity through renewable energy sources like wind, hydrogen and solar by the year 2025.

Policast is a daily roundup of Minnesota political news. The entire interview with Sen. Chris Eaton can be heard in the Thursday, Feb. 21 episode.