Clean energy plan a focus of Minnesota Senate panel hearing

solar senate
Solar panels are seen on the roof of the Minnesota Senate building in St. Paul in January 2018. Republicans in the Minnesota Senate proposed “Clean Energy First Act” that would require electric utilities to prioritize carbon-free technology with an emphasis on renewable energy sources.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News 2018

A Minnesota Senate committee will be in Rochester, Minn., Wednesday to hear testimony on a Republican plan for future energy consumption in the state.

The proposed “Clean Energy First Act” would require electric utilities to prioritize carbon-free technology with an emphasis on renewable sources.

Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, the chair of the Senate energy committee, said his definition of renewable includes wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear and hydro. Energy from fossil fuels would also remain an option, Osmek said.

“Having many alternatives and having a robust portfolio is I think something that I have always championed. Having an all-of-the-above energy strategy is something that makes more sense for our energy future here in Minnesota.”

The hearing is at Rochester Community and Technical College. A second hearing is scheduled Jan. 22 at Mound Westonka High School.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz has taken a different approach to energy policy. He announced a strategy last year to move the state's electricity generation completely away from fossil fuels by 2050. The measure did not win support in the Republican-controlled Senate last year.

House Democrats have their own version of the Clean Energy First bill.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said there are several differences with the Senate plan. But Stephenson is optimistic that an agreement can be reached in the upcoming legislative session.

“It’s time to get our laws around energy to match where the technology is, because this energy transition to clean energy is going to happen one way or another,” Stephenson said.

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