Minnesota Law Sets Aggressive Renewable Energy Requirements

Minnesota is putting its faith in renewable energy and requiring utilities to generate a quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Considering where the state stands now -- about half the power produced there is from coal, and only 8% from renewable sources -- the legislation being signed by the governor Thursday is the most aggressive in the country, analysts say.

The Minnesota law, which sailed through the Legislature, pushes for the use of renewable sources such as wind, water and solar energy and cleaner-burning fuels.

"Now we have to talk about how we get there," Gov. Tim Pawlenty told business leaders ahead of the signing ceremony.

Minnesota's numerical goal trails targets already in place for Maine and New York, but those states had been getting a significant amount of electricity from large-scale hydropower facilities before their standards were adopted, according to data from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A 2004 federal government estimate found Minnesota depended on coal for almost half of the power produced in the state and used wind, water and other renewables for about 8%.

"As of a percentage of where all their electricity will come from, Minnesota is now in the lead with this policy in terms of supporting new renewable energy development," said Jeff Deyette, energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The law comes as states around the country stake out far-off goals for renewable energy. More than 20 states have some type of renewable requirement or good-faith objective. Colorado is moving toward a standard of 20 percent by 2020, while New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch challenged lawmakers last week to adopt a 25 percent by 2025 requirement.

Clean-energy advocates are pressuring Congress to adopt a goal of getting 25% of the nation's energy --- electricity, motor fuel and other power -- from renewable sources by 2025. They are promoting wind farms, solar power, ethanol and biodiesel as ways to reduce reliance on foreign imports.

Minnesota's previous objective was to encourage power producers to draw 10% of retail electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Under the new law, all utilities except Xcel Energy would be bound by the 25-by-2025 standard. Xcel, which delivers half of Minnesota's electricity, would have to meet a 30% by 2020 benchmark.

There are escape valves, including an energy credit trading system to help producers struggling to meet the standard. Utility regulators could also delay or modify the timeline if they determine that the cost of meeting it would significantly increase customer bills.