7 questions for Tim Walz’s 100% carbon-free energy plan

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Seven Questions for the 100% Carbon-Free Mandate

The 2023 legislative session is off to a fast and furious start as new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate roll out their ambitious plans for Minnesota. One of those priorities is to move Minnesota to 100% carbon-free energy by the year 2040.

Minnesota is currently on track to achieve the smaller “goal” of 25% renewables by the year 2025, so Walz and his Democratic allies in the legislature want to increase that to 100% by 2040. So far, all we’ve heard from them is platitudes about reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. As the bill moves its way through committees beginning next week, here are seven questions that need to be answered before Minnesotans begin sacrificing money, convenience, safety and economic growth at the altar of the climate change agenda.

1. What counts as carbon free?

The current version of Walz’s plan won’t legalize the construction of new nuclear power plants, which are the only scalable, reliable source of emissions free energy on the planet. If liberal lawmakers claim that climate change is an existential crisis but refuse to legalize the largest source of carbon free power on the planet, it is impossible to take them seriously.

This isn’t the first time liberal energy policy has had nonsensical exclusions. When the original 25 by 25 renewable energy mandate was adopted, hydro-electric energy from Manitoba was not counted as renewable energy. The reason? If they counted hydro, Minnesota could reach the goal without needing to prop up the wind and solar industries with subsidies. How is water falling over a cliff not a renewable energy source?

2. How much will it cost every Minnesota energy customer?

We did the math. Center of the American Experiment recently released a report showing Walz’s carbon-free mandate will cost Minnesota families and businesses an additional $313.2 billion (in constant 2022 dollars) through 2050, compared to operating the current electric grid. That means electricity customers will pay an average of $3,888 per year over the next 30 years. That includes homeowners and businesses. The largest users of energy in Minnesota are extraction and manufacturing businesses like mining and oil refining. Higher energy costs will translate to lost jobs on the Range (it’s already happening) and higher gas prices. Not to mention higher electricity bills for every homeowner.

3. What will be the measurable environmental benefit?

If Walz and Minnesota Democrats are not concerned with the cost issue because they believe the planet is dying and we all must sacrifice to save it from destruction, then surely they can tell us how much global warming we will prevent with this expensive plan. Again, American Experiment did the math.

Using the Obama administration formula for determining the effects of carbon reduction on temperature change, the Walz 100% renewable plan will produce a reduction of 0.00096° C by 2100, meaning the reductions will have no measurable impact on future global temperatures. We are about to embark on a very costly program that has no measurable effect on climate! Even if the 49 other states follow Walz’s “leadership” on climate change, the results on temperature would be unmeasurable. Meanwhile, the cost to Minnesotans and our economy will be disastrous. 4.

4. Will this plan make blackouts or brownouts more likely?

According to our latest report, The High Cost of 100 Percent Carbon-Free Electricity by 2040, the Walz Proposal will “seriously undermine the reliability of the electric grid by making it more dependent on fluctuations in the weather. This dependency will end in blackouts.” When this bill comes before legislative committees, the Walz administration must answer this question. You don’t need to read a think tank white paper to understand an over-reliance on wind and solar will put the entire grid at risk for blackouts. Right now, thousands of solar panels in Minnesota are covered with snow, failing to produce any energy for the grid. American Experiment’s Energy Policy Fellow Isaac Orr frequently jokes on Twitter that we should “turn up the windmills” when we need more energy. But blackouts are no joke.

5. How much land will the Walz plan take out of production?

Wind and solar energy installations need a lot of land. They also need a lot of energy and materials to build, but we’ll save that for another day. The Walz proposal would require 47,421 megawatts (MW) of wind, 15,390 MW of solar, and 35,449 MW (141, 796 MWh) of battery storage capacity, which represents a five-fold increase over the electric grid that served Minnesota’s electricity needs in 2020. Delivering that much power from these sources would require 162,000 acres of land. Land that can no longer be used for other purposes such as producing food.

6. Where is Walz’s data on how this will work, how much it will cost and how it will provide reliable, affordable energy to Minnesota customers?

American Experiment produced a 46-page report on the Walz 100% carbon-free plan examining historical, real-world wind and solar production data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and creating economic models using the IMPLAN software system to determine how many jobs would be lost under the plan. Where is the Governor’s data on what his plan will accomplish, how much it will cost, how many jobs will be lost and what environmental benefit we can expect? So far, all he has is talking points and promises.

A more specific question that will have to be answered is what the cost of the proposal will be to state and local governments. They are energy customers, and this new mandate will affect their budgets just like homeowners and businesses. Where is the fiscal note for state government to comply with the new 100% carbon-free mandate? Governor Walz, show us your math!

7. Where will the metal come from?

The orange bars on the chart below shows the amount of copper, nickel, and cobalt needed to replace all of the energy consumed in Minnesota (except biomass) with wind turbines, solar panels, and battery storage. It also shows the amount of metal needed to generate nearly 100 percent of Minnesota’s electricity from these sources in blue. Lastly, the red dots show what percentage of global copper, nickel, and cobalt production it would require to get 100 percent of Minnesota’s energy needs from wind, solar, and storage, based on 2019 production data from the United States Geological Survey.

The Walz proposal would require nearly 2.48 percent of global copper output, 11.7 percent of nickel output, and 116 percent of global cobalt production. In other words, this plan is impossible on its face. How will Minnesota convince the rest of the world to send 116 percent of global cobalt production our way so we can build solar panels and windmills?

So far, the 100% carbon-free energy proposal is just a press release with goals, aspirations and platitudes about saving the environment. As it moves through legislative committees, these seven questions need to be answered before Minnesota sacrifices our economic competitiveness at the altar of climate change.

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