A new study out of Minnesota found that 70 percent of the state’s electricity could come from wind and solar energy by 2050 — and it would cost about the same as natural gas.
State officials plan to use the report, which was commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, as it considers future energy policy decisions.
The state has been a national leader in pushing renewable energy since 2007 when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, enacted legislation to increase renewable energy use and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
“The best time to have taken action on energy issues would’ve been 30 years ago,” Pawlenty said after signing the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. “The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in Minnesota we are kick-starting the future.”
Today, around 20 percent of the state’s electricity comes from wind, and around 1 percent from solar, said Josh Quinnell, a senior research engineer at the Center for Energy and Environment, one of the organizations that completed the report.
“We have a thriving wind industry,” Quinnell said, “and solar has kicked off this year.”
According to the report, Minnesota could get 10 percent of its energy from solar by 2025.
The results of this study could signal to other states that renewable energy may be cost effective, said Jeff Ressler, CEO of Clean Power Research, which also worked on the report.
“Minnesota is kind of unique in that it has an outstanding wind resource and also good solar,” Ressler said. “But there are other places in the Midwest like that. We can look to repeat this analysis in other locations.”
To achieve 70 percent renewable energy by 2050 will require utilities to build more wind and solar plants. Though this report is just one of many steps toward that goal, the researchers are confident the state will achieve it. And as technology continues to improve, they say, eventually all electricity will come from renewable sources.
“I’m confident we’ll get there in my lifetime,” Quinnell said.