Could Minnesota Reliably Meet All Energy Demands on Clean Energy and Save Money, Too?

A report released this month, which was commissioned by the McKnight Foundation, revealed analysis that showed Minnesota could retire the state’s coal plants, build no additional natural gas plants, and still meet energy demands reliably through clean and renewable energy sources.

The report also shows that the state can meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals while reducing energy costs and tripling clean energy jobs.

Minnesota can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by replacing the energy that is currently used in buildings and the transportation sector with clean energy sources to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, which it is currently failing to meet, according to the report.

The report models approximately 13 different scenarios over the U.S. portion of the Eastern Interconnection for generator siting, transmission expansion, storage capacity expansion, demand-side resource deployment, transmission power flow, economic dispatch, and metric tracking. The author of the report however, indicated that he was unable to model for distribution costs of electricity and wrote that if more investment in the distribution system was required, then the cost reductions he found could be less.

Key takeaways from the 76-page report:

  • Energy Costs Would Go Down. Electricity rates would decrease by approximately 30 percent and average households would save approximately $1,200 per year in energy costs.
  • Clean Energy Jobs Would Triple. Jobs in the clean energy sector would more than triple, creating an estimated 14,000 jobs in the wind industry and 36,000 jobs in the solar industry by 2050. In fact, jobs, incomes, and state level GDP would all increase under the clean energy scenario.
  • Cleaner Air and Healthier Communities. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, the report shows a significant reduction in other pollutants harmful to human health. This means cleaner air and healthier communities.
  • Powering the transportation and heating sectors with clean energy provides significant pollution reduction. While the state’s electric generation has been getting cleaner, Minnesota has not been making progress in its transportation and heating sectors. The report shows scenarios to reliably power heating and transportation with clean electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these sectors.

 “Continuing our state’s progress on clean energy will not only allow us to tackle climate change, but will significantly reduce air pollution, increase human health, and boost our economy by tripling the number of energy sector jobs by 2050,” said Kate Wolford, President of the McKnight Foundation.

Read the full report, “Minnesota’s Smarter Grid: Pathways Toward a Clean, Reliable and Affordable Transportation and Energy System.” Read the executive summary.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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