Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast

Minnesota’s 100% Clean Electricity Bill Explained

February 07, 2023 Fresh Energy Season 4 Episode 1
Minnesota’s 100% Clean Electricity Bill Explained
Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
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Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
Minnesota’s 100% Clean Electricity Bill Explained
Feb 07, 2023 Season 4 Episode 1
Fresh Energy

Let’s talk about Minnesota’s 100% clean electricity bill! Join Fresh Energy policy experts for a webinar that was recorded on Monday, February 6 at 1:30 p.m. to dig into why this bill is a big deal for Minnesota, what it entails, its history and journey through the Minnesota Legislature, and more.

Webinar guests:

Show Notes Transcript

Let’s talk about Minnesota’s 100% clean electricity bill! Join Fresh Energy policy experts for a webinar that was recorded on Monday, February 6 at 1:30 p.m. to dig into why this bill is a big deal for Minnesota, what it entails, its history and journey through the Minnesota Legislature, and more.

Webinar guests:

100 Percent Explained _mixdown.mp3

Christine McCormick : [00:00:01] Hello and welcome to Decarbonize the Clean Energy Podcast from Fresh Energy. Fresh Energy is a Minnesota nonprofit working to speed our state's transition to a clean energy economy. My name is Christine McCormick, and I'm Fresh Energy's digital communications associate. Today, I'm here with you to share a recording of our recent webinar called Minnesota's 100% Clean Electricity Bill Explained. The webinar dug into why this bill is a big deal for Minnesota, what it entails, its history and journey through the Minnesota legislature and more. You'll be hearing from five fresh energy staff members Michael Noble, our executive Director. Allen Kleckner, our executive lead of policy and programs. Isabelle Ricker, the director of Clean Electricity. Justin Fay, our senior lead on public affairs and advocacy. And finally, Jo Olson, our senior director of communications and engagement. All right, let's jump into the recording.


Jo Olson: [00:00:54] So Hello and welcome to Fresh Energies Webinar. Digging into Minnesota's 100% clean electricity bill and soon to be law. My name is Jo Olso   n. My pronouns are she her and I am the Senior Director of Communications and engagement at Fresh Energy. Thank you so much for joining us. So first of all, some of you joining us today might be new to fresh energy. So thank you for being with us and getting to know us. Fresh Energy's been working on clean energy and climate policy issues here in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest for 30 years. We are changing the world through bold policy solutions that move us to a just carbon-free future. And we're helping everyone who lives here and dependence on fossil fuel electrify their lives and build a healthy, clean energy economy where all can thrive. So now I want to introduce you to my colleagues and today's speakers. Welcome to Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy. Justin Fay, senior lead of public affairs and advocacy. Isabel Ricker, director of Clean Electricity, and Allen Gleckner, Executive Lead Policy and Programs. And I think this is what I'm going to stop sharing my screen and I'm going to spotlight you. Michael, I'm hoping you can tell us a little bit about why this is such a big moment for Minnesota.


Michael Noble: [00:02:23] Well, Jo, thanks so much for pulling us all together. I think people on the call might or might not know that Fresh Energy's been at this advocacy work since 1990. And without any doubt, this is the most significant clean energy climate accomplishment in public policy that we've ever been involved with. I did a little exit interview. I'm rewiring my own life. After 30 years of trying to rewire Minnesota's, I did a little exit interview with MinnPost, and I cited the 1994 legislative session in the 2007 session, and the 2013 session is the most significant in the past 30 years. But without any doubt at all, this bill that Governor Walz signs into law tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. is by far the single most significant climate and clean energy thing that I've been fortunate enough to be part of. So we'll get into the weeds, into the details, but just the historic nature of this. A lot of states are arcing toward carbon-free electric supply, but I think our bill is one of the very best, very cleanest, strongest, best bills. We'll talk more about that. And it's really the work of so many people over so many years, starting obviously, with the announcement by Governor Tim Walz himself in March of 2019 that this was his vision.


Michael Noble: [00:03:52] And it's so closely aligns with the vision that Xcel Energy Board, board chair and CEO set out just a few months prior to that. And now we have the utilities on board and the labor unions on board, the environmental groups on board. We made a lot a lot of progress bringing people to the idea that if you're going to solve the climate problem, you've got to get all the carbon out of the electricity supply and then you have to electrify everything you can practically electrify, maybe can't electrify everything, but we can electrify most stuff. And it starts with a carbon-free electricity supply. And I just want to say, Jo Olson, you in particular, have been such an unheralded part of this story, driving the narrative, shaping the story, keeping the press involved, writing my speeches, writing my testimony, telling me where to go, what to say. I want to salute you, J Olson, for your incredible leadership on this clean energy economy.


Jo Olson: [00:04:56] Thank you, Michael. I clearly wasn't ready for that. I didn't even unmute myself and I did not script that. But I think.


Michael Noble: [00:05:02] No, she did not script.


Justin Fay: [00:05:04] That. That's true.


Jo Olson: [00:05:05] But I do want to recognize you and the folks, especially all of the folks on the on the call today, Allen, Justin, Isabel and Michael, because, you know, as a communications person, I talk about the work, but you guys are doing the work. So I really want to now turn it over to Justin, who can give our guests perhaps, maybe, oh, some of the details on the history of 100% and its journey through the legislature this year and maybe even prior years. Justin, do you want to take it from here?


Justin Fay: [00:05:42] I'd love to. Thank you, Jo. And thanks, Michael. You know, it's interesting to step back and think about the history of this because it's sort of hard to know where to where to begin. Do you begin with the first time Minnesota passed any version of renewable energy policy? Do you begin with the passage of the renewable energy standard? Do you begin with when this what we now think of as the 100% carbon-free bill was introduced for the first time? I like to begin in 2013. So that was the first year after we passed the renewable Energy Standard, where people started to have an actual serious conversation about what's next. It was obvious by that point that we were going to meet or beat the the goals that we had set for ourselves for clean energy deployment six years prior. And the and the question was, where do we go from here? You know, you set goals, you meet them and then you set new goals. That's just that's that's how it works. That's life. Right? And so that that year we had what we thought at the time was a very ambitious 40% by 2030 renewable energy standard bill and it didn't get very far that year. But it was it was the beginning of the conversation of like, okay, we have to actually finish the job and we have to talk about what is the what is the policy framework that we're going to adopt that's going to get us there.


Justin Fay: [00:07:10] In 2019. So six years later that that sort of conversation resulted in, for the first time, a 100% buy carbon-free piece of legislation being introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate. And at that point it was 100% by 2050, and it was announced as a major policy policy priority of the then brand new governor, Tim Walz, and passed the Minnesota House that year, which was pretty exciting and a really, really big step forward. But that was as far as we got with it. And then the same thing happened in 2020 and then the same thing happened in 2021, except for we were able to move up the timeline. And so in 2021, the Minnesota House the governor proposed in the Minnesota House passed a 100% by 2040 carbon-free bill. That was really where the bill, the main components of the bill that we we just finally passed into law this week came came first, first were introduced. So again, it passed the Minnesota House. No action in 2022. And then all of a sudden, 2023, we're done in I think it was under 30 days somehow. So pretty remarkable, pretty remarkable arc of when you think about the history and the sort of slow incremental steps and building and it fits and starts of progress, and then all of a sudden the dam just breaks open and and we go from the session convening to to final passage of this law in about a month, which is very, very unusual, especially in the energy space.


Justin Fay: [00:09:04] The. That's that kind of speed. And the fact that we are able to do it in a way that is both ambitious and pragmatic. I think Allen and Isabel will talk a little bit later about why it's ambitious and why it's pragmatic. So for now, I'm just going to assert that it's both of those things. The reason we were able to pull this off, there's a lot of reasons, right? When you have an achievement like this. But absolutely at the top of the list is the phenomenal work of the legislators that were leading this effort in the House and Senate. And that's Majority Leader Jamie Long in the Minnesota House and energy chair. Nick, friends in the Minnesota Senate between the two of them did the most masterful job of bAllencing political and technical work, shopping and troubleshooting in a very tight timeline that I've experienced in the time that I've been doing this work at the at the legislature. Really, really just a remarkable achievement and done with the support of their majority caucuses in both the House and Senate caucus leadership. And, you know, these bills were were identified that from from day one that there were going to be a priority. It's sort of a tradition in Minnesota that the majorities in the House and Senate will introduce their top ten bills every year.


Justin Fay: [00:10:27] And those get the numbers one through ten in the House and in the Senate for bill numbers. We were Senate file for and House file seven this year, and that's almost never happened. On any energy or climate issue before. So it's really a testament and the fact that that the issues have have increased in stature and importance and urgency to the point where that could happen is really a testament to the all the organizing work, the the the coalitions that have been built and that have been working for years to try to tackle these issues. I particularly have to give a shout out to our friends at the 100% campaign. If you're not familiar with the 100% campaign, you should be. I'll put a link in the chat to their website when I get done speaking, but it's a really unique, broad based coalition working on decarbonization and specifically passage of this bill and then building on the success of it to get all of the carbon out of the rest of the economy and what not so much what the policy questions are, but how do you build the coalitions and how do you build the political will and the political consensus necessary in order for change to happen at that kind of economy wide scale that we know it needs to happen? And so this is while we're, I think, very, very proud of the accomplishment that we've had here, this is the beginning.


Justin Fay: [00:11:59] This is Michael talked about the you you need to get all the carbon out of the electricity and then you need to get everything that you can in the economy as much as you can anyway, onto onto electricity. Well, we've now done or at least laid the roadmap out for how we're going to do part one of that. That's basically where we are in this big economy wide decarbonization process. So one of the the best things that came out of this entire experience over a number of years and especially over the course of this past month, is the cross-sector partnerships that have come out of it. Environmental groups and labor unions and utilities and business folks working together towards a common goal and having just very candid, direct conversations about what do you need in order for this to be successful? What are what are the folks that you're accountable to for the objective that you're worried most concerned about meeting? What needs to happen in this bill? And that didn't just happen out of nowhere. It was a very intentional set of relationships that folks including, but by no means limited to fresh energy, have been working to build over a number of years. And it really, really bore fruit over the past month that we were able to collectively, as a group of stakeholders, sit down and and work through problems.


Justin Fay: [00:13:20] And the. A result is a really, really good piece of legislation, not because it's the most aggressive or not only because it's aggressive, but because it's actually very thoughtful. And you can see the work of lots of different stakeholders woven into the fabric of the of the bill language. Um. The next step here is, is the bill being signed into law. And that's going to happen tomorrow afternoon and then we have to go implement it. So we have four more months of the 2023 legislative session yet ahead of us. The state of Minnesota has a budget to pass. We have a significant opportunity in the form of federal funds from some of the actions that the US Congress has taken over and over the last couple of years with Biden administration's leadership. Maximizing the opportunity of the last of the remaining portion of the 2023 legislative session is absolutely critical to getting this new policy that that we've just adopted off to a successful start. So we're very, very grateful for all the work that that's been done, very, very proud of the accomplishment. And also, if you if you leave with one thing, one thought from this, this conversation today, it's we're just getting started and there's a lot more to do. And I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this legislation, legislation today and for all of you for taking time to be part of the conversation.


Jo Olson: [00:14:52] Justin, thank you so much. That was a really, really helpful long view of 100%. But now I think we're going to turn it over to the policy pros, Allen Kleckner and Isabelle Ricker and Isabelle. I think the first question I have is for you. So for folks on the webinar, they probably seen 100% headline in the Star Tribune or on NPR or various other places, but. News articles feature on elements of the bill, but maybe not like the entire thing. So in a nutshell for you, how would you describe the 100% clean electricity bill? What does it entail?   If you could tell our guests, that would be great.


Isabel Ricker: [00:15:35]  Yeah. Thanks, Jo. Thanks, everybody who's joined. I'm really excited to see such a big group here. Definitely reflects the level of enthusiasm we feel as well for this policy passing. So essentially, and I  won't get into the details, we don't really have time, but essentially the bill requires that all of our Minnesota utilities provide electricity to their Minnesota customers that is 100% carbon-free by 2040, and it sets some interim benchmarks. So by 2030, 80% of electricity supplied to Minnesota customers needs to be carbon-free. 90% needs to be carbon-free by 2035 and 100% by 2040. I will say there's a slight difference for the cooperative and municipal utilities their 20, 30 goals, not 80%, it's 60%. But they have the same 90% and 100% goals by 2035 and 2040. Yeah. So essentially there are now two sets of goals, the renewable energy standard, and that has a specific set of eligible technologies and the carbon-free standard. And that just requires that electricity generation is carbon-free in order to qualify. So yeah, this is quite an ambitious bill, though certainly not outside the scope of what many states across the country are doing. But it also is practical, which is one of the things fresh energy likes to pride ourselves in ambitious but practical policy. So we're excited that this bill has a similar approach. And I just wanted to talk a little bit about that for folks. So the bill does contain some flexibility in how utilities can meet the standard, including owning generation assets, power plants and solar plants and wind farms purchasing power directly either from a specific project or from the regional grid, or they can use renewable energy certificates to meet the standard. And then there is what has been called an off ramp option. S


Jo Olson: [00:16:26] o if reliability or affordability of electricity is threatened or significantly impacted, a utility can request the Public Utilities Commission adjust their goal. And then the bill sets out some criteria that the Public Utilities Commission will consider to determine whether to grant that request.


Isabel Ricker: [00:18:05] So that's those are certainly some of the more controversial pieces of the bill. But I think we're crafted with an understanding that we need to have an escape hatch in the off chance something unforeseen happens. But the bill really is quite practical and achievable. It's not going to be easy to achieve. But I think the fact that many, many diverse interest groups and stakeholders are supporting this bill, including environmental and clean energy advocates, labor unions, consumer advocates, as well as. Our two largest utilities are supporting publicly supportive up the bill and most others are neutral or supportive. So I think that really reflects sort of a broad consensus that we can achieve these things. And if we need that off ramp, we have it. But I think we all hope that we won't get there.


Jo Olson: [00:19:05]  Thank you. Thanks, Isabel. I wonder now if we can turn things over to Allen. So, Allen, we saw just a lot of back and forth on the Minnesota House and Senate floors and in committees, too. About what the 100%, 100% bill actually does and then what it does not do. So can you give us first a quick rundown of some of the big things that the bill does do?


Allen Gleckner: [00:19:32] Yeah. Thanks, Jo. So first, like Isabelle mentioned it, the big headlines are the standards that it sets. The really exciting and important new one is the carbon-free standard, which ramps up in 2030 with a 2035 benchmark and then ultimately in 2040 at 100%. And then, as Isabelle mentioned, it also updates our renewable energy standard and sets a new requirement there. The current one ends or the current one tops out, I should say, in 2025 at roughly 25%. And so now we have a new goal for for the renewable Energy standard or new compliance benchmark of 55% in 2035. And so these two standards work together. You can kind of think of them as the carbon-free standard sits on top and obviously goes higher and goes up to 100%. And then within that, the renewable energy standard is sort of a requirement that that sits under it. So if a utility is 100% carbon-free, they need to have at least 55% of that come from sources that are renewable, which is essentially wind and solar is the main thing we think about there. So there's two standards. They interact and work together, but they have slightly different technologies that can qualify, qualify for each and that gets a bit in the weeds and there's some changes there about what can qualify as renewable and what the carbon-free standard is. That definition is pretty broad and not not delineated like technology by technology, whereas the renewable standard does lay out exactly what technologies can qualify there. So those those work together. And there's an update on the renewable energy standard and obviously there's some details there I'm skipping over, but we can get into that in the Q&A if we need to.


Allen Gleckner: [00:21:27] But so, yeah, I mean, the big thing that the bill does is say that the public interest of the state now is that the utilities are providing their customers with carbon-free energy and requires that with some flexibility late in, as Isobel mentioned, the the key flexibilities that we see are the off ramp, as Isabelle mentioned. The other the other thing is new technologies. The the way the definition for carbon-free is crafted. It's really technology agnostic. As long as it's carbon-free, it can count. And so we're really setting the stage in conjunction with the IRA for and, and with what I think we would say, the experts are identifying that we need technology and new technologies to get all the way to 100%. And so the bill really recognizes that and and sets the stage for that to happen. So that new technology piece is a big part of the flexibility for how flexibility are part of the toolkit for how are we going to get there. Off ramp is a tech flexibility for God forbid we can't get there. And then there's some other flexibility built in and to how the compliance will work, which is a. We gets a bit detailed on it, on some accounting and things, but it gives the utilities flexibility over over time and with different technologies to to meet the meet the standard and allows them to interact with our our electric system which is based on a whole a regional wholesale market.


Allen Gleckner: [00:23:02] And so it accounts for that in a way that adds a bit more flexibility. Some other things, these are much less the the big pieces here, but the bill does also have some provisions for clean energy siting improvements. So to help, we know that to get there, we're going to have to build a lot of clean energy. And so this is an attempt to to make that. Faster and easier by no means a big overhaul. I think there's plenty of other things that are kind of waiting in the wings to help make that even smoother. But there are provisions in there that do that. There are a number of workforce and labor provisions to really make sure that do our best to make sure that this clean energy development creates jobs for local workers. Jobs that support families often would be union jobs. So that is a big part of the bill as well. And then another big important piece, probably not so much for the energy system in Minnesota, but very important in just doing what's right is that the trash incinerator in Hennepin County does not is removed from qualifying as something that can qualify for these standards. So that is something that was really important for many stakeholders and a positive piece of this bill that doesn't really change a whole lot on the energy landscape, but is an important thing worth noting. So, yeah, why don't they stop there so we can focus in on what people want to talk about, too?


Jo Olson: [00:24:44] Yes. Okay. I have a few more questions before we get to the Q&A. And I think I think this is going to get at some of the questions I see popping up in the Q&A and that were submitted in advance to. And I can say this is one of the folks on staff who helped implement a text campaign around 100% that there's a lot of incorrect information or assumptions floating around both in the public sphere, but then also, as we saw on the house and floor or House, the Senate floor and the House floor. So can you tell us specifically what the bill does not do? So maybe some of the big talking points that we saw people opposed to the bill bringing forward?


Allen Gleckner: [00:25:27] Sure. Yeah. I mean, the main talking points and concerns are around cost and reliability. What does this do for our electric costs and our energy costs and for reliability? And I think it's safe to say that anyone who participated in this development of this legisl ation in good faith and any serious actors here never questioned whether that was going to be a part of this, that we know electricity, it's going to be supporting even more and more of our economy. It has to be affordable, it has to be reliable. It has to meet reliability that we have today and potentially even better for certain applications if we're going to be relying on it for heating in super cold temps. So that is baked into this in every way. Some of the ways are like Isabel mentioned, the off ramp. So if we plan in Minnesota with our utilities, both our regulated utilities through the Public Utilities Commission and our cooperative and municipal utilities are looking ten, 15, 20 years out as they plan. And so they're going to be planning around this these requirements in this legislation and at all times of reliability and cost are going to be key in those. And so if there's ever. You know, if we're going to see that well in advance of any of any issues there. So there's no change to planning standards. There's no change to what is reliability? Does reliability have to be met? All that's required, all that will still be required. What we're saying here is we're going to all focus our efforts, the utilities, the regulators, the industry on getting to these goals and meeting 100% carbon-free electric system while maintaining reliability and maintaining affordability.


Allen Gleckner: [00:27:10] You know, that doesn't mean that electric bills will have will automatically go down. What we're talking about is that this is going to be in line with. You know, this is not going to change the course of of costs going forward. And I think it's safe to say that we feel very confident in saying costs with this legislation and with decarbonizing our electric system generally are going to be much lower than the status quo for for the society. But also even just on your electric bill, when you look at these types of technologies we're going to be using, they don't have fuel volatility. They're based on technologies that can scale like computer chip cell phones largely. So we can expect that as we increase economies of scale, will contain costs or even reduce them versus legacy electricity generation. So we're pretty confident on the cost that's baked in in lots of ways in this bill, but particularly in the off ramps, but also under the assumption that this bill is part and parcel with the planning that we do in the state. So, you know, I don't those are talking points. Blackout Bill. There's really no relation here. Other than we know we have to make this transition in a way that's reliable and everyone's working on that. If we don't succeed, we're not going to do it. So there's there's  no no increase in odds of blackouts or anything like that. I think another talking point we've heard is that it bans nuclear or somehow disincentivizes nuclear. I don't know the impacts that our anti nuclear in some way that talking point is probably around the fact that the state of Minnesota has a what's called a nuclear moratorium where you can't build new nuclear plants in the state of Minnesota.


Allen Gleckner: [00:28:53] This legislation didn't deal with that. That wasn't really part of this discussion because our existing nuclear plants do qualify for carbon-free and would count towards the standard. Theoretically, new nuclear does count towards the standard. Whether or not there's a moratorium in place is a separate discussion, but it doesn't. Nothing in this bill changes or says that other nuclear could not qualify in some way, shape or form. So those are sort of confusing critiques of the bill. Another thing I think that's come up is this bill is not illegal under federal law or the federal Constitution. We've heard. Through letters that have been circulated from the state of North Dakota, that they have concerns around the legality of this bill as it relates to the federal constitutional dormant commerce clause or the Federal Power Act. We have lots of legal analysis from leading experts around the country that say that that really isn't true. This is the same framework as our renewable energy standard, which has been on the books and unchallenged in federal court since 2007. There's multiple, multiple other states with similar legislation that survived legal challenge or hasn't been challenged. There's nothing different about our bill compared to all these other ones that have survived legal challenge or have not been challenged. You know, anything can happen. Anyone can sue for any reason and, you know, hope they get lucky. But there's nothing in here that would indicate that there's any difference from our bill versus anyone else's with regards to federal law.


Jo Olson: [00:30:32] Thanks, Allen . I think you just you powered through a few of the pre submitted questions to. So thanks for taking time on on those talking points. And now I wonder if both Michael and Allen, maybe the two of you can kind of take this one. So. Minnesota's major utilities supported or were neutral on this bill. So can you talk about why, Michael, I know that you've been really involved with the utilities over your long history with fresh energy, but can you talk a little bit about utilities and 100%.


Michael Noble: [00:31:07] Sure. I appreciate that question. I think is he Isobel already said that the two largest utilities supported the bill and a number of other utilities are neutral, including the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, which is the trade group representing the rural electric cooperatives, is was neutral. You know, when when the legislative configuration of who is in charge and who was chairing committees, when that was clear to me, I made calls to, I think. Five utility CEOs got him on the phone, went to their offi ce and met with them. And my question to them is, can can we both bring our best selves to this debate? So when the result comes, it's something that we're both proud of, we both think of as an accomplishment. And I don't think they were really planning to have a 100% bill become law in 2023. But to their credit, the answer I got from everyone was Yes, we want to work with you. We want to work with the legislators. We don't just want to stand across history screaming stop. We want to be at the table. And, you know, just to name names. Chris Clark of Xcel Energy, the president of Xcel Energy, was very productive and helpful and thoughtful. And his testimony was wise and his quotes in the paper were encouraging. I think he used the word excited for the challenge a number of times. Bethany Owen is the chairman of the Board of Elite, which is the parent company of Minnesota Power in Duluth.


Michael Noble: [00:32:45] And she was the first person to say, well, if I could get this modest improvement, I could be supportive. And her modest improvement was quite reasonable, we thought. So I give a shout out to Bethany Owen and of course, the rural electric co-ops. There's you know, rural electric co-ops get their electricity from either Dairyland Power or Basin Electric or Minnesota Electric or Great River Energy. But Great River Energy, headquartered in Maple Grove, has about 85% of the geography of rural Minnesota and their management team, specifically the president, David Segou, and the director of their energy markets team, John Breck, were quite thoughtful, know they were under a lot of pressure from grassroots, but they came to the table and made thoughtful suggestions that improved the bill. So, you know, maybe when I was young and more of a firebrand, I might not have called them and said, How can we work with each other? But, you know, they have hard jobs that they have to deliver. 99.999% reliability, you know, to heavy industrial companies up on the Iron Range. If their reliability fails, a worker could die. They were responsible for by law, they're mandated to provide electricity to every single person. They can't say you're a crummy customer. We don't want to do business with you. They have to provide electricity to everybody and it has to be affordable and reliable.


Michael Noble: [00:34:19] So, you know, I know I can't run a power company. And why would I be presumptuous that it's easy for them? So I'm just very, very proud of all the Minnesota electric industry players who helped make the bill better. They work very closely with chief authors Nick Frantz in the Senate and Jamie Long in the House. And I'm sure they would tell you they didn't get everything they asked for, but they made enough of a significant investment in improvement and thoughtful contributions that I can confidently say the bill is stronger and better and poses less concern and less risk. So they're just trying to do the right thing. And Ellen has this line that I use all the time is once the policymakers set the North Star, every single time the utilities step up and exceed expectations, you know, there's plenty of things that we're in disagreement about with our electric utilities. There's plenty of things I give you a long list, but today I just want to celebrate all the leaders of Minnesota's investor owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives, in particular, that they came and the municipal utility in Rochester, Minnesota, they came or came to the table, made the bill better, and either supported it outright or they were neutral on the final product. So that's that's part of the work is listening and learning and helping to help me get feedback into the process.


Jo Olson: [00:35:53] Thank you, Michael Allen. Do you have anything you want to add to that before we move on?


Allen Gleckner: [00:35:57] No, I think that's good.


Jo Olson: [00:35:59] Okay. Okay, great. So, Allen, I had a question for you about how utilities are going to accomplish this, but I know we're we're already getting kind of close on time. Is there like a quick answer for that? Or maybe we'll talk about some of it in the Q&A. I know we always say deploy, deploy, deploy, but maybe like do you have a four sentence answer?


Allen Gleckner: [00:36:19] Sure. No, I don't know. Of course. Yeah, that's the big we were working on this very thing before we pass this bill. The bill helps tremendously, but there's challenges to getting there. Certainly achievable challenges. But yeah, it's essentially build lots and lots and lots of renewables. We know that's going to make up the the bulk of how we get there. The other thing we're going to need is a lot of large transmission, electric transmission, both to add new renewables, but also to make our grid more and more robust. I think as we're seeing the the biggest challenges that we're going to face are these increasing extreme weather events. And that's what kind of folks who are trying to figure this out are really honing in on that. The hardest, the trickiest times to to deliver on this are going to be those extreme cold, potentially extreme heat, too. But really, especially for Minnesota, extreme cold events and transmission is probably the single best technology we have to to help with those because we can move power really, really great distances and the odds of extreme weather covering every every last place and is so low that the more you can share power across vast geographies, the better.


Allen Gleckner: [00:37:36] So transmission is a huge piece of the puzzle, both for just deploying, deploying, deploying, but also these the most difficult reliability questions we're facing. There's a bunch we can do on the customer side with smart charging of EVs, other appliances, flexible demand is a huge part of it. And then like I mentioned before, we see definitely a role for new technologies. Probably not a big a big part on an annual basis of your electricity would come from some new technologies. But we think that to get all the way to 100% or 95%, that that we expect that that has to be part of it. There's a whole litany of new, exciting stuff supported by the IRA and otherwise that's emerging. And we just hope it comes quickly and that a lot of it is viable and that Yeah, so that's kind of the a big thing we're excited about, but we don't have all the clarity on at this moment.


Jo Olson: [00:38:39] Thanks, Allen. And a quick shout out to Mike Showalter on Fresh Energy's team, who is all transition all the time. So a lot of what Elon was talking about on transmission is some a lot of what Mike is working on. And I know he's on the call today. So now let's zoom out, Izzy, if you would. So federal laws like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or EPA and the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA. So those two are going to help utilities make it to 100%. Can you talk about how that those federal laws will impact Minnesota as well?


Isabel Ricker: [00:39:17]   Sure. I'll try to keep it quick. And then if folks have other specific questions in the Q&A, we can dive into some of the specifics there, too. But yeah, so both of these bills represent a historic amount of federal investment in clean energy. And the infrastructure bill, of course, is much broader than clean energy. But there is a good chunk of money in there for the energy grid and energy systems broadly. Sorry, the electric grid, we try not to say energy grid. So yeah, and the IRA had $370 billion for clean energy alone. And I'm sure most people on the call have heard a lot about the incentives for homeowners and businesses to transition to more energy efficient or clean energy technologies in their own lives.


Isabel Ricker: [00:40:06] But it also includes incentives through the tax code and through other programs that will be administered by the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture and others to help utilities transition to carbon-free technologies. So as Allen was mentioning, there's a lot in there for hydrogen and carbon capture in addition to tax code changes that will really help utilities take advantage of the preexisting tax credits for wind and solar and some changes to help with interconnection costs and batteries qualifying for those tax credits as well. So we are expecting that that really drives down the cost of carbon-free technology over the next ten years. So that's really, really exciting. And then of course also will help drive innovation and deployment of those other carbon-free technologies that aren't quite market ready today, but we do think are going to be an important piece of the puzzle as we get closer to that 20, 30, 20, 35 time frame. Um, anything else you want me to say on that before we jump to Q&A?


Jo Olson: [00:41:16] No, I think that's great. Tha nk you so much. And knowing that we've got a bunch of questions, I'm going to do just a quick.


Justin Fay: [00:41:26] And I answered some in the answer tab, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about them also if.


Jo Olson: [00:41:31] They're okay. Well, if I say a question that you've already answered, you can say that's done and then we'll move on. But first, I want to remind folks, because we're going to be spending the rest of the time on the Q&A that there is still time to take action on 100%. It's not. I mean, even though the governor is going to be signing it into law tomorrow, there's still so much work to be done. In fact, the work is just beginning. So you can visit that URL on your screen or scan the QR code to send a thank you note to your senator and your representative, too, if they voted yes on 100%, and if you're not sure how they voted, go ahead and still check that URL. Our tool will let you know. And then second, and I think our development team would be frustrated if I didn't at least promote this, become a donor to fresh energy. You can be part of the work not only by taking action on things like 100%, but by making a donation. People who make a donation of $30 or more today will get a pair of our one of a kind wool, fresh energy branded clean energy socks featuring wind turbines and solar panels as seen on Jamie Long. I think. I think I've seen him wearing a pair of these at hearings and whatnot over the past year, so let's do the Q&A first. So we had a persistent question asker, so I want to want to ask his question first. So let's talk about jumpstarting smaller projects. So a lot about 100%. And federal legislation does impact utilities. But what is the hopeful message for smaller wind and solar projects in Minnesota like approvals right now are hard to get. Some municipalities have full out bans. Do we anticipate 100% as well as federal legislation making perhaps smoothing the way for smaller projects? And this question comes from Clay M. And it's not an easy question.


Justin Fay: [00:43:37] I saw Clay's other question in there, too, about kind of the sighting in particular. And there's one change that you might be interested in that. That for certain solar projects that. Um, are not. I'm trying to think how to say this. If a solar project has a transmission line, like a small low voltage transmission line, that would connect it from where it sits to the distribution system, and that happens to fall. Would current under current law fall under like a municipal ordinance or need local or county requirement? But the project. Otherwise does not. That low voltage transmission line is included in the solar project now. So if it doesn't fall under that jurisdiction for the solar project, a small transmission line would not pull it in. So I don't know. That's I know not going to drastically change the landscape, but it is one piece of the clean energy siting streamlining that's in there. It might be relevant, but other than that, I mean, I would say the the bill doesn't really designate any specific technologies. So in that way, I think there's fears that, oh, this is only going to help big utility scale projects. Well, that's not baked in in any way. And I think there's lots of reasons to think that that utilities are going to look to distribution connected projects to help them meet these targets as things get as we get closer and closer.


Justin Fay: [00:45:10] And we know we need to take everything we can get, it's hard to interconnect at the transmission system right now, and I think that's another reason to see some small projects going forward. There's a lot more ambitious targets for co-ops and municipals to hit now, and so that maybe changes some of their thinking on these projects to some ways to work together that maybe weren't there before. So there's that. And we're seeing we just saw Excel's most recent procurement that came out of their resource plan. They put a request for proposals out and explicitly asked for not only big utility scale grid transmission grid connected, but also distribution connected. And so I think that is an example of all these planning legislation that says hit these targets. That's an example of them saying we'll take whatever we can get. So if you have small projects they can be bid into and let's, let's see. So nothing direct in the bill, I would say, but there's lots of indirect things you could look to and certainly nothing that disadvantages those projects.


Jo Olson: [00:46:19] Thank you, Allen. And I should add to when we took questions and comments from everyone who registered, I would say about half of the questions and comments we got were celebratory messages. So that was really exciting to see. So thanks everyone who sent a positive note through that channel. And now I have a question from Sam. Sam asks, Will this legislation get the remaining coal plants closed sooner than previously planned? Isabelle. I wonder if you want to take that one. Or maybe Allen.


Isabel Ricker: [00:46:52] I'm happy to start anyway. There's nothing directly in the bill that will achieve that, but it certainly is another finger on the scale or whatever the phrase is, to encourage utilities to look to other capacity and energy resources to replace those plants. So as Allan mentioned, the planning process for utilities will remain the same, but this will be a consideration and I expect all the utilities are already starting to think about how is this going to affect our next resource plan. And I think one of the other things to remember is the changing costs of all the different technology options with the IRA. That should certainly also help make the alternatives to coal plants look more attractive.


Allen Gleckner: [00:47:42] Yeah, With the existing retirement dates too, we're pretty mindful of the communities and the workers there. And so we're we're emerging towards Excel dates of Sherco one and two are coming up really soon, so it wouldn't expect us to change. And then, you know. Planning for 2028 and 2030 there. And so all this. All the coal plants in Minnesota, with the exception of one have 20, 30 or earlier dates and in utility planning time that's very soon. And so I don't know I would say it's unlikely would be my kind of prediction, but it certainly will help with. The ones that don't have 20, 30 dates and potentially some of the out-of-state plants we're dealing with that serve Minnesota customers through Minnesota utilities and. You know, some of the other challenges. Coal, in a lot of ways is the least of our challenges these days. So.


Jo Olson: [00:48:43] I'm going to quote you on that, Allen.


Allen Gleckner: [00:48:46] At least I didn't say it wasn't.


Jo Olson: [00:48:50] Okay. Well, now I have a question.


Michael Noble: [00:48:51] The least of our problems. Signed Allen Kleckner.


Allen Gleckner: [00:48:55] And I get me in trouble now.


Jo Olson: [00:48:58] I have a question from Susan in the Q&A. What is seen as the biggest barrier to achieving 100% by 2040? An easy answer, right? Allen, do you want to take this one?


Allen Gleckner: [00:49:12] Yeah, I can. Well.


Michael Noble: [00:49:14] The last one, 99 is easier than 100.


Allen Gleckner: [00:49:18] Yeah. Once you get up there, each. Each new percent is hard. I think. But yeah, I mean, I'd say like from a. Sort of like electric system perspective. It's what I mentioned. It's the those extreme weather times. It's the example would be really, really cold across a big part of the upper Midwest and big part of the whole eastern part of the country and low wind, low sun. Those are the the hardest times. And that's the challenge that everyone's really focused in on. So that's from the technical perspective, from sort of the other big perspective is just building the amount of stuff we need to build in the time that we have to build it. It's a pretty staggering amount of wind and solar deployment, particularly when you look into the the analysis that says how much we need, especially when we electrify other parts of our economy. It's it's a really big amount. And so we have to really get to work doing that. And there's some kind of near term challenges, like someone in the chat mentioned with interconnection to the regional grid, some of the siting and and siting processes and having communities who want this stuff. So we. Need to build a lot of stuff and build it fast. And so that's not really a technology problem or an electric system problem, but a, you know, get it done. Problem, But we're hopeful that there's the will, there's the way, there's the ingenuity. And we have some good local jobs, local benefits built in here that will really help.


Jo Olson: [00:50:55] Thank you, Allen. And actually, you said the magic words, inner connection. And I know we have a question in the Q&A from David about that. So does David asks, does this bill speed the interconnection process? It seems like the queue is long to get a project connected. And I know this isn't like totally. I mean, your answer might not be totally related to the bill, Isabel, but interconnection is near and dear to your heart. I wonder if why is that? Like the swankiest thing I've ever said? You have interconnection. Why don't you answer this question, Isabel, please.


Isabel Ricker: [00:51:29]  Well, there are two, two types, right? So the larger projects usually get interconnected to the transmission grid, and that's the the regional wholesale power market operator. Miso also manages that transmission grid and that interconnection queue. And there's quite quite a long queue there. I think a record number for the second year in a row of projects applied to connect this past year, the vast majority of which were renewable. But that really gets to the MISO process and we really the the answer there is just building out a lot more transmission and that is in the works, but it takes time.


Isabel Ricker: [00:52:10] So that's, I think, going to be kind of a slow incremental progress over the next few years and then hopefully a ramp up as we get closer to 2030 in that. And then on the distribution side, there's also some interconnection challenges in Minnesota. And I guess the short answer is no, the bill doesn't affect either interconnection process. Fresh Energy is talking about and working on some solutions to the local distribution interconnection challenges for Xcel Energy customers. But it's a thorny, thorny problem, and this bill does not address that. This is more like setting the vision of where do we want to go by 2040? And then the interconnection issue is one of the many implementation challenges we have to work through.


Jo Olson: [00:53:01] Perfect. Thank you. I wonder if we can take Ross's pre submitted question next. So Ross asks. Ross says the bill appears to bolster the use of the federal social cost of carbon in Public Utilities Commission proceedings and perhaps even for a co op and muni resource planning. Can you speak to the intent of this provision in the bill? Allen, do you want to take this one?


Allen Gleckner: [00:53:29] I mean, I can do my best that the intent the I mean, this is I'm afraid this is going to take a lot of context to make useful to everyone here. But the a big part of the planning process in Minnesota that was established, something fresh energy worked on. I don't remember the year, but Michael could tell you, I'm sure, but requires. 1992, 1992. So one of the that was the cutting edge thing. But it said that when we plan for utilities, we have to look at when we're planning their new generation, like, should we build this plant, should we build that plant? We have to look at not only just sort of the actual costs that are going to flow through to customers, but what are the the externalities or we call the social cost of carbon or all the other costs that a certain type of like a new coal plant would impose but customers don't pay for. But it doesn't mean we don't pay other ways through public health or, you know, fish that we can't eat, you know, all kinds of damages and health and otherwise. And so that is attempted to be quantified and then put into the planning process. It doesn't dictate any decisions that get made, but it's something that has to be looked at. So the law requires that in these planning processes, you at least have to look at that and the commission should consider it.


Justin Fay: [00:54:47] And so this bill does update that a bit and says, you know, basically says you've got to use whatever the latest number is rather than typically it's been a proceeding at the a new case at the Public Utilities Commission every ten or 15 years that says, hey, do we need to update these values? It just says, hey, use the EPA is doing this, they're updating it regularly. Just use the latest and greatest. There is basically what it says. The main intent, I think, was to that needs to also be looked at. And if a utility is trying to seek an off ramp at the Public Utilities Commission, that needs to be accounted for, like what are what what are the social cost of carbon if you take a non compliant route or we give you a delay or lower your standard, like what are the what are those costs look like? Especially if we're saying looking at cost as a main component of that that discussion. So it's wrapped into our planning. I think it's good to use the most updated numbers. Don't think there's really any other. Direct proceeding, other things that it connects to other than resource planning and the off ramp in this bill.


Jo Olson: [00:55:55] Thanks, Allen. I think that was actually a really useful context to include and very well worth the few minutes that it took for you to go into. So thanks for doing that. Knowing that we have 3 minutes left, I want to do a round robin of our group and for anyone who has a final comment or any closing thought they want to add, I think now is the time. And if you feel like I've been asking you too many questions during this webinar, you can also opt out. So, Justin, we didn't grill you during the Q&A, so I wonder if you have any closing thought to share. Do you want to kick us off?


Justin Fay: [00:56:32] Yeah. I would just say, you know, we're not done yet. Even this session, we have over three and a half months of the 2023 legislative session left to go. And there are a lot of questions that I think folks will rightly have and will rightly continue to have about this policy that we've just passed and will be implementing over the next number of years. And the success of Minnesota and our kind of broader universe of stakeholders is going to be determined by all of the things we do next. So that includes streamlining permitting for clean energy projects, that includes funding for environmental justice initiatives and making disproportionately excluded community and under-resourced communities whole, and making sure that they have those communities have all the resources they need to take full advantage of the policy of this policy. It includes thinking about host communities that currently have a have a have an existing fossil fuel power plant. A lot of them are in smaller communities where the the utility that owns the coal plant or the the large gas plant is is is paying 50 to 60 to 70% of the local tax base, that that plant closing creates a lot of ripple effects. We talked about siting for renewable energy. I think you can just keep going on down the list. And there are all of these things that were not attempted to be addressed in this bill, because this bill really only does one thing. And and the real meat, the real where the rubber is going to meet the road and determine whether this policy is is implemented and ultimately successful by the year 2040 is going to be all the things we do next starting with the last three months of this session.


Michael Noble: [00:58:28] Jo, I have a hard stop at 230. Can I just interject my last comment? Yes, please. You know. But back when we passed the renewable energy standard in 22,007, people said it would be too hard. And we have on the call today chief author of the bill, Aaron Peterson, who now works for the Washington State Department of Commerce in renewable energy. He was a sophomore legislator at the time. And we we actually what we thought was hard actually turned out to be straightforward. Once you apply yourself. The 25% renewable energy standard was reached in 2016, 2017, not 2025. Now we have 25. Now we have 17 years again to get carbon-free. And the advantage we have is that the prices of solar and wind are so dramatically much lower than they were back then. The prices are falling and falling and falling. You can Google the phrase learning curve and see the economic literature that shows why they keep just falling and falling. And it's true of batteries. It's true of all the technologies that we need. And couple that with the fact that everything is on sale now for the next ten years at 30% off. With the Inflation Reduction Act. This this this goal carbon-free by 2040 is going to be achieved earlier than required by law is my prediction. And it's not going to compromise our affordability or our reliability one iota. That's my prediction, is that we're going to do this exceedingly well and affordability and reliability will not be compromised.


Jo Olson: [01:00:07] Thank you, Michael. I know we're right up overtime. Any closing thoughts or from Allen or Isabel? We could let the group go.


Allen Gleckner: [01:00:16] Well, thanks for all your support can do without you all.


Jo Olson: [01:00:19] Yeah. Thank you. Everyone agreed. All right. Well, have a great afternoon and I will send out a link to the recording for this event, I think, tomorrow afternoon. So keep an eye on your inbox for that and feel free to share it around. Thanks so much for joining us.


Christine McCormick : [01:00:34] Thank you for tuning in to the audio recording of our webinar. You can stay up to date on Fresh Energy's work at Fresh Dash Energy dot org or follow us on social media. Also, Fresh Energy is currently hiring for multiple positions. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team. Check out our website. Just scroll to the bottom of the home page and choose. Join our team. Thank you to everyone for listening and subscribing to our podcast. You can support Fresh Energy's work by donating today. Head to our website, which is once again at Fresh Energy dot org and click donate in the upper right corner. Thanks for tuning in.