Jensen’s plan to save the Boswell Energy Center is a good one

Last week, Republican Gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen released his 10-point plan for Northern Minnesota. Among his proposals was a plan to save the Boswell Energy Center, a 922-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Cohassett, Minnesota. The website reads:

The proposed shuttering of the Boswell Energy Plan in Cohasset by 2030 for the smaller unit and 2035 for the larger energy unit must be reviewed. Boswell provides 50% of the tax base for the city and 20% of the tax base for Itasca County. Strategic, long term, reliable, sustainable and affordable energy will be a signature initiative for the Jensen Administration. Provide reliable energy that is affordable. Minnesota job providers need to have reliable, sustainable, base load energy that is affordable. Under Tim Walz, energy prices have skyrocketed while warnings of rolling brown outs were issued in 2022. The Jensen Energy Plan will provide both reliable and affordable energy for Minnesota businesses and families.

Saving Boswell is an excellent idea because the power plant is the backbone of the northern Minnesota economy. As I detailed in the article Economic Energy, in the Spring 2020 issue of Thinking Minnesota, mining requires massive quantities of electricity.

The MinnTac mine in Mountain Iron reportedly uses more electricity and natural gas than the entire city of Minneapolis. In total, the iron mining industry consumes 600-650 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power roughly 25 percent of the homes in Minnesota on an average hour.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show 4,006 people worked in the iron mining industry in 2018. The average wage for mining jobs in St. Louis County was $98,954, which is twice as high as the average wages for the county and 5.85 times more than wages in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The high wages paid by mining jobs amplify the economic impact of mining throughout the entire Iron Range.

Each iron mining job supported an additional 1.8 jobs in the greater economy in 2010, according to the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota. Some of these jobs are called “indirect jobs,” or jobs in support industries, such as the Mesabi Radial Tire shop in Hibbing that sells the massive tires used on mining equipment.

Other jobs are known as “induced jobs” because they are the product of miners and people employed in support industries who spend their paychecks in the broader economy at places like hospitals, grocery stores, and small businesses.

One of these small businesses is Pep’s Bake Shop, a family-owned bakery located in downtown Virginia, Minnesota that has been in the family for three generations.

People who work in the utility industry have told me that Boswell could easily run until 2050, or even 2100, with proper investments and upkeep. Unfortunately, Minnesota Power announced they would shut the two remaining units in 2030 and 2035, even though federal data show the plant is one of the most productive and lowest-cost generators in the state.

This would be a giant disservice to the families and businesses that rely upon this reliable, affordable electricity, and it is encouraging to see that a Jensen administration would value the essential role that the plant plays in powering Northern Minnesota.