Minnesota Chambers Focus on Clean Energy to Capitalize on Investment Gains

Minnesota’s early and continuing support for clean energy has created a strong economic advantage for the state that chambers of commerce and businesses need to continue to support.

That was the message delivered to dozens of local chambers of commerce and their member businesses during a recent post-legislative briefing call hosted by the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.

“We have to stay engaged in clean energy policy,” Matt Kramer, President of the St. Paul Chamber, told fellow chamber leaders. “If we don’t stay focused on this, we’ll lose the enormous economic opportunity that renewable energy presents.”

“The Minnesota Legislature,” said Amanda Bilek, Government Affairs Manager for the Great Plains Institute, “recently made small but important changes in clean energy policy that will allow utilities to better recoup costs of distributed energy systems.”

“A new program,” she added, “will also boost commercial construction of facilities to produce advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biomass thermal energy from agriculture and forestry materials—and reduce the state’s dependence on imported petroleum products.”

Adam Sokolski, a Regional Market Structure & Policy Manager with Iberdrola Renewables, the second largest wind developer in the country, said it is important that the state uphold a predictable, multi-year policy to attract investors in the capital-intensive wind industry that brings significant tax revenue to the local economy.

Iberdrola operates five wind energy projects in the state that produce 550 megawatts of energy, Sokolski said—adding that there is much more potential to be reaped from Minnesota’s strong wind resources.

“Minnesota has the ability to be an exporter of electricity,” said Sokolski. “We could generate more electricity from wind than we could ever use in Minnesota. That’s a message that hasn’t been absorbed by the public yet.”