Tune in to my testimony on Clean Energy First at 3pm!

Today, I’ll be testifying in the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee on a bill called “Clean Energy First.” You can read the bill by clicking here, and you can watch my testimony by clicking the YouTube link below when the hearing starts.

Update* Testimony was cut short, so I am posting my written testimony below.

This legislation is similar to the version of the bill that was considered last year. I wrote a three-part series on this legislation last year (The Good, The Bad, and The How Do We Make This Less Ugly?).

The good part is that the legislation legalizes new nuclear, large hydro, and carbon capture technologies. The bad part is this legislation doesn’t give utilities an incentive to build them. Instead, the legislation would be a blank check to Xcel Energy and other Minnesota electric providers to prematurely close the coal plants that kept the lights on during the polar vortex, and build more unreliable wind and solar power and “back them up” with impossibly-expensive batteries, or natural gas.

The reliability of America’s grid is at a tipping point. Texas, California, and the fourteen states in the Southwest Power Pool have experienced rolling blackouts in the last six months. This legislation would make our grid more fragile and less dependable during extreme weather events when we need the energy the most.

That’s why you should sign our petition demanding public policy that puts the reliability of our electricity supply first and share it with your friends and family. With your help, we can send a strong message to lawmakers that Minnesotans want a grid powered by reliable resources that provide affordable power in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Implementing the same energy choices as California and Texas and expecting different results is a recipe for disaster. We should learn from their mistakes, not repeat them.

My Written Testimony

Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Isaac Orr, and I am a policy fellow specializing in energy and environmental policy at Center of the American Experiment.

Energy policy is a matter of life and death, and the reliability of America’s electric grid is reaching a tipping point.

Two weeks ago, 4.5 million Texans suffered from multiple days of rolling blackouts. The blackouts caused more than 40 people to die, many of them children. They also caused an estimated $18 billion in property damage, making them more devastating than Hurricane Harvey, Ike, or Rita.

The polar vortex also caused blackouts in the Southwest Power Pool, resulting in 9,800 electricity customers in Moorhead Minnesota to lose their power when temperatures were -22 degrees.

In August millions of Californians lost power, causing 39 hospitals to incur blackouts during a global pandemic.

The common theme for all of these regions is that their grids are too reliant upon wind, solar, natural gas, and in the case of California, energy imports from neighboring states on the wholesale market.

There are several good aspects of this legislation, but on the whole, it will put Minnesota on track to repeat the mistakes made in Texas and California, by making our grid more fragile and more expensive.

The good provisions of this bill legalize new nuclear power, large hydroelectric power from Canada, and accept carbon capture and sequestration technology. These reliable, carbon-free resources will be incredibly important to the future of energy in America, but unfortunately, this bill does not give utilities much incentive to utilize them.

Instead, the legislation rubber stamps a $57 billion plan by Xcel Energy to prematurely shut down their coal plants by guaranteeing cost recovery for these assets. It also ensures the company can make billions in profits by building thousands of megawatts of unreliable wind turbines and solar panels, and natural gas back up power plants. This will cost the average Xcel customer $1,400 per year, every year through 2050.

These provisions are problematic because they reduce the diversity of reliable power plants on our electric grid and put nearly all of Minnesota’s energy eggs in the wind, solar, and natural gas basket.

According to data from the regional electric grid, the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator, coal often provided 52 percent on the grid during the polar vortex, natural gas provided 28 percent, and nuclear, 12 percent. During this time wind produced just 4.2 percent of demand, and solar only 0.3 percent.

What’s worse, wind provided only 3,500 MW of electricity, even though it could have produced 22,000 MW. This means wind produced just 16 percent of its potential output when we needed the electricity most.

Minnesotans want the legislature to put reliable and affordable energy sources first. We can’t afford California blackouts in a Minnesota Winter, and we don’t want to see enormous energy bills. As written, this bill will make our energy less reliable, and much more expensive.

Thank you.