DFL Senator From Iron Range Signals He Won’t Support Carbon-Free Power Mandates At This Time

It’s a great day for Minnesota families and businesses, as Senator Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) stated that he believes that provisions of the House Energy and Jobs omnibus bill that would mandate that Minnesota derive 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 should be left out of the current budget negotiations and reconsidered at a later date.

What makes this statement so remarkable is that it was completely unprompted. In fact, the discussion previous to his comments about increasing renewable energy mandates were about the Line 3 oil pipeline. After making an initial comment about the pipeline, Senator Simonson offered this opinion about the proposed renewable energy mandates:

“Specific to energy, let me just make this point. The Senate consciously made the decision to take the discussion around changes to the RES [Renewable Energy Standard] or to the carbon standard and push it off into the interim, not because we’re trying delay it, but because we think that it’s worthy of a broader discussion between House and Senate members of the LEC [Legislative Energy Commission] and I think there are a lot of nuances to that discussion that we want to have, so in the event that this bill ends up at a higher level, out of our control, I hope that you will consider that provision because I think, and I can’t speak for everybody, but me personally, I want to have that discussion. And I think it’s an important discussion that we have collectively and not just independently of either body. Definitely worth a broader discussion.

And the last thing that I’ll point out is this, that as we talk about increasing the renewable energy standard or the Clean Energy First provision, and I know there has been a lot of off-ramps kind of built in to that policy, it just makes me pause a little bit and wonder, if we’re going to institute a policy of that significance, with as many off-ramps as we’ve built into it, perhaps it’s not the best policy, yet.

But that being said, I’ll just point this out, because I don’t see anyone else around this table from northern Minnesota. And you know this as well as anybody Commissioner [Kelly], that Northern Minnesota, and the IOU [Investor Owned Utility] that represents many of us in Northern Minnesota is unique. Sixty percent of Minnesota Power revenue comes from twelve customers. These are high energy users, large power users, and we want to make sure that as we move forward with energy policy that we’re respectful of that, and I certainly understand the argument about the clean energy jobs, and how that sector is growing and I think that’s wonderful as long as we do it right, but I also think we need to be respectful of the jobs that we have currently and make sure that we aren’t making decisions that drive them in a direction that we don’t want them to go.

At the very least, please consider that as this moves forward that we want to have a broader discussion in the LEC about what our next big energy steps should be.”

You can watch the testimony for yourself below.

This is great news for the entire state of Minnesota, but especially the Iron Range, where, as Senator Simonson said, the vast majority of the electricity generated is consumed by iron mines and paper mills. These industries compete in a global economy, and they simply cannot stomach skyrocketing electricity prices.

American Experiment has been incredibly vocal about this point. Our latest study, Doubling Down on Failure specifically looked at the impact a 50 percent renewable energy mandate would have on Minnesota’s mining industry, and we’ve published multiple articles in the Duluth News Tribune explaining why more wind and solar mandates are bad news for Minnesota’s miners. You can read them below.

Statewide View: Skyrocketing electricity prices threaten Minnesota mining: Click here.

Statewide View: Don’t believe inflated clean-energy jobs projections: Click here.

Statewide View: Soaring energy prices could derail Minnesota mining’s massive opportunity: Click here.