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Minnesota Enacts 25% Renewable Portfolio Standard for Power Generation

States with an RPS. Click to enlarge.

On Thursday, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into the new Minnesota Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS requires that 25% of the state’s electricity comes from renewable power sources by 2025. Xcel Energy Inc., which delivers half of Minnesota’s electricity, would have to meet a 30% renewables benchmark by 2020.

Currently, half of Minnesota’s power is coal-generated, and renewables account for only about 5%.

The RPS replaces Minnesota’s non-mandated renewable energy objective (REO), enacted in 2003, that required utilities to make a good faith effort to generate or to procure 10% of their power from eligible renewable energy technologies by 2015.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have some form of renewable requirement or good-faith objective. Some, like Minnesota, are proposing strengthening the RPS. Colorado, for example, which currently has a 10% by 2015 RPS, is considering a 20% by 2020 standard.

At the Federal level, Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a federal renewable portfolio standard bill—HR 969—earlier in February. The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by 14 other Representatives, mandates 20% renewable energy by 2020.

(A hat-tip to John!)



Rafael Seidl

Let's hope they don't classify nuclear as renewable. President Bush does this but it's nonsense - reprocessing greatly improves the efficiency of uranium utilization but once nuclei fall part, they've fallen apart.

Wrt true renewables, Minnesota has sunshine and wind. It's too flat for significant hydropower and there's not much in the way of geothermal sources, either.

One useful approach would be for states such as Minnesota to invest in efficient renewable energy production elsewhere to free up fossil fuel for use in their own state. Sadly, this is a concept that only works on much longer timescales than politicians are usually prepared to consider.

Europe has much the same dilemma - places like southern Spain have the most sunshine but the electricity is needed most in places like Northern Germany.


At this point, I don't think the standard should be related to "renewables", but to sources that are not carbon fuels unless the carbon from those fuels can be sequestered or otherwise kept out of the atmosphere. Nuclear should be part of the pie. The key issue is to cut carbon dioxide emissions new; a less important issue is whether or not we will eventually run out of nuclear materials to run nuclear power plants.

Which points to another issue. I am more worried about branding sources like biofuels, especially ethanol as renewable. Considering the relatively low net energy return of ethanol, for example, the percentage contribution to the RPS should be reduced to take into account the fossil fuel input contribution.

Another issue that needs to be highlighted is that the ultimate renewable is conservation. Conservation should be part of the standard or emphasized and mandated as part of a separate standard. Conservation is the gift that keeps on giving, but politicians would rather emphasize supply as that seems like a more painless approach.

The bottom line is that we need to set goals for carbon reduction. Renewable standards are only part of the answer and may fail to recognize that all "renewables" are not created equal.

Adam Galas

I applaud my state for setting one of the highest renewable energy goals in the country. But I fear that even this lofty goal is not enough.

At this rate MN will still be relying on Hydro Carbons for 50% of their energy in 2050!

Does anyone here think that Natural gas or Oil will hold out that long?

Peak Natural Gas has already happened in the US, as has oil. And Global peak NG and Oil is no more than 10-15 years off at the longest.

I read in some magazine that today 2% of the world's energy is from clean renewable sources. By 2030 experts postulate that 6% will be from renewables!

The shift from Hydro Carbons to Renewables is occuring much to slowly.

I can only hope that oil prices continue their gradual increases so that market forces can force people to make the switch faster.

If we see $70 oil this summer, $80 next summer, and $100 by the summer of 2010, I think this would be ideal.

It would be slow enough let the economy adjust, but fast enough to force the nation towards the renewable at a much faster rate.

Bill Young

I agree with Rafael in that, speaking properly, nuclear is not a renewable resource; as with any mineral resource, it is finite. If it is not within the Minnesota legal definition of renewable, and I would expect it not to be, Lord help the Minnesota ratepayers.

Depending on how the legislation is worded, this could be a real opportunity for generators outside the state to generate economically and sell by wire. This is happening now in California. Internationally, it is happening in Italy and England which both import economical nuclear generated electricity from France.

Stan Peterson

Once again Demeiocrats are screwing up the objective with the methods,revealing thweier basis desire fro raw governmental power.

They complain that Minessota produces too much CO2 and CH4. Why? Because of concern in a couple hundred of years that Minneapolis temperatures wil rise to that of St Paul temperature today. Big Deal.

If you want to reduce GHGs for some stupid reason, set that at the goal and let a thousand technologies bloom to produce the best answer. Set "performance standards" not "method standards" that socialists are just too ignorant and stupid to know how to set correctly.

This is a paraphrased quote from a hallowed saint to the the socialist dingbats masquerading as Environmentalists, led by a knothead who flunked out of Divinty School.

At least Elmer Gantry could graduate from scripture study.


Stan you sound a little confused regarding politics and science. They are not the same thing. You don't have to reject the science just because you don't like certain policy reponses.


On second thought, perhaps that is why there are so many climate change skeptics out there. They cannot think of any desirable alternative policies to deal with it so they reject climate change full stop. Not a very constructive response to reality.

Kit P.

Texas was one of the first states in the US to have a RPS when Bush was governor. At the time, the cheapest way to make electricity was with natural gas. Now that the economics of windmills have been demonstrated, wind farms are being constructed without an RPS.

Jeff R

Even from way out here on the loony liberal fringe, I have to agree with Stan that it's better to regulate the ends than the means. Government won't be able to keep up with the changing technologies, but it's government's role to set the goals for society, and to keep the playing field level so solutions can fairly compete. So regulate the hell out of GHGs, kick the props out from under oil, gas, and nuclear, and avoid the temptation to mandate specific solutions like solar power or electric cars (though I might like those solutions personally.)

On a separate note, nuclear power falls apart on it's own lack of merits. Can't find a reference to the study, but I believe a lifecycle analysis showed nuclear power producing quite a bit of CO2 in the construction, maintainence and decommissioning of its supposedly CO2-free power. Probably didn't include the CO2 produced guarding the nuclear disposal sites for the next 100,000 years, either, but it probably should.


One of these states is not like the others. One of these states just doesn't belong...

but, I'm glad to have Texas as part of the party (Arizona's more red than purple too). The rest of the states are purple or blue. So, that's cool.

What's interesting is that 48/100 states -- but 253/435 = 58% of the House of Representative -- represent a state/district with a RPS. If my state has an RPS, shouldn't I want other states to have 'em too, in the interest of fairness? I'm wondering if this is an example where states have taken the initiative, and there's enough states which have "bought in" to get a national RPS passed. Even if it's the "minimum" of all the state RPS that exist, it'd be more than nothing.


As I suggested above, we need to focus on the objective and not confuse it with the assumption that so called "renewable" fuels will get us there. As I said, conservation is way underrated, especially by politicians interested in selling free lunches to their constituents.

So, in that narrow sense, I agree with Stan. However, I believe he seriously understates all the negative consequences of global warming.

Just because 20% of your fuels are "renewable" doesn't necessarily translate into a net 20% reduction in greenhouse gases.


The way things are going, California is going to be importing wind power from Texas.

Kit P.

Nuclear has about the same life cycle ghg emissions as solar of wind.

IMO, we should not have a national RPS. Some states are poor in renewable energy resources.


Jeff R.:  If you are referring to the claims of the "study" by Storm et al., pleased note that the data on which it's based is questionable at best, and the assumptions are carefully chosen to make nuclear look as bad as possible.  For instance, Storm assumed that half of enrichment would be done with gaseous diffusion, when gas centrifuges would do the job on 2% of the energy and would clearly be the only option going forward.

Anyone who bases conclusions or policy on the Storm study is either serving some other agenda (like playing to the coal lobby) or a fool.



Mixing of political and ideological issues with technological and scientific problems we discuss on this forum is lousy business, and does not benefit our posters and readers. Please, keep your comments clean and informative.

Bill Young

A nuclear power plant does generate CO2 in the construction and decommissioning phase. Bulldozers burn fuel. Cement manufacture releases CO2.

The mining, refining and enriching of Uranium requires energy input, some of it unavoidably CO2 emitting at our current state of the art.

When examined over the life of a nuclear plant and the amount of electricity generated, these CO2 emissions are negligble. On the order of 2-3% of the CO2 from coal.

Used nuclear fuel is a real issue. In the long term, the use of light water reactors (all of the 104 currently in the US and all of the 30 odd commercial reactors in the pipeline) is not optimum. LWRs make inefficient use of the Uranium, around 95% of the Uranium is still unburned when the exhausted fuel is removed. LWRs create and very inefficiently burn transuranic elements. The unburned transuranics are the real problem child of used fuel management.

Kit P.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a tool determine what the best environment choice cradle-to-grave between two choices such as washing cloth diapers or using throw away diapers. The environmental impact may vary depending on how energy is produced for a given location to make hot water.

Every LCA for ghg of electricity sources are not really complete LCAs. Only an inventory of ghg is considered. The impact of AGW is not addressed. That is because we do not know.

However, there are many environmental impacts that are know and can be measured. What about safety , waste disposal, and so forth? The reason I am an advocate of coal, nuclear, big hydro, and renewable energy is that these sources of energy provide a huge benefit compared to the environmental impact. In the US, this is a result regulation that require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

RPS concept encourages renewable energy sources over coal and nuclear. If the RPS is done properly it will encourage private industry to pick the best solutions.


Minnesota is an interesting case:
50% of power generation from coal
yet DoE lists MN as having:
reserves at coal mines - nil
Natural gas reserves - nil
Crude Oil reserves - nil

A RPS sets a public policy and lets private investors compete to deliver the lowest cost solutions.

Has anyone considered the size of the RE resourses available?
MN total net generation is 4220 000 MWh pa,
so 25% RPS would be 1055 000 MWh (plus future growth).

MN has electricity power lines from North Dakota & Manitoba.

MN has wind power resource mainly on the western border with ND.
AWEA estimates MN wind resource at 657 000 MWh.
AWEA ranks ND #1 in the USA for Wind power resource at 1210 000 MWh
but ND has a small population and cheap coal (just $10 per ton).
The MN RPS provides a potential market for some ND wind.
MN wind of 657 k MWh + 398 k MWh from ND
will suffice to meet the MN RPS.

Denmark manages high percentages of intermittent wind power
by 2-way trade with HEP from a neighboring state.

HEP provides high levels of peak power,but the annual power output is limited by rainfall.

Manitoba has a large percentage of power from HEP and is concerned about the risk of climate change reducing rainfall.

MN & ND can supply wind power to Manitoba
in exchange for HEP to meat peak demand.
"a substantial portion of Manitoba Hydro's annual generation
can be exported over the tie to Minnesota.
In 2003, a new line was completed to the United States,
allowing a firm import capacity of 700 megawatts."

In the long term, all of the MN & ND wind resource can be utilised
if some of Manitoba's untapped HEP is developed.
Concerns have been raised by RFK Jr about whether the First Nation stewards of the land have been adequately involved.
RFK Jr is also concerned about side-effects on local wildlife;
if sea levels do rise to threaten coastal towns & cities choices will have to be made.

On the plus side, the Wuskwatim project had an extensive environmental review and was passed by a referendum of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN).

The MN RPS will enable companies to develop RE technologies which can then be costed against other options such as CCS.
IGCC could produce a pure CO2 stream which would be CCS ready.
IGCC also offers the possibility of co-firing coal with boimass.
Can anyone shed any light on the biomass potential of MN?

MN is also interesting because with its cold winters, it has a huge winter heating load. Much of that heat is supplied by natural gas.
With no gas reserves, MN residents are vulnerable to high NG prices.
A levy on fossil heating fuels could fund fiscal-neutral incentives for ground-source heat pumps.
GSHPs with the addition of liquid (mainly water) or phase change (eg parafin wax)
are an ideal match for intermittent wind power and smart meters.

The wind potential of MN & ND is just the tip of the RE iceberg in the region.
Manitoba HEP & Wind unused potential is vast and just the projects in planning exceed twice the current electricity consumption of MN:

Manitoba Wind farms in planning 654 MW peak
654x24x365/3 say 1386 000 MW h per year.

Hydro potential 5000 MW x24x365/3
say 14600 000 MW h per year;
of which in planning:
Wuskwatim 200 + Gull 630 + Conawapa 1380 + Notigi 100 + Gillam 1000 = 3310 MW peak.
3310x24x365/3 say 9665 000 MWh per year.

Kit P.

Polly, in Minnesota, 65% of the electricity generated comes from coal and 25% nuclear. This will not change. There will be lots of press releases and maybe even a few windmills erected for show and tell. Minnesota may buy wind power from another state. The past is a much better indicator of the future than predictions by politicians.

Paul Dietz

There will be lots of press releases and maybe even a few windmills erected for show and tell.

I'm not sure 'show and tell' is the motivation for the wind turbines, but they are pretty. Go down to SW Minnesota (near Pipestone National Monument (Park?)) and you can see a line of them extending for miles along the dividing line between the upper Mississippi and Missouri river drainage basins.

As I recall, these turbines were installed as part of a deal that allowed the utility to move its spent fuel into dry casks. I guess blackmail is ok if it's done for 'green' reasons.

fyi CO2

The measure to repeal a state law that forbids state regulators from considering proposals for another nuclear power plant was defeated.


IMO, we should not have a national RPS. Some states are poor in renewable energy resources.

Really? Which ones?
Lots get plenty of sunshine.
Lots of wind capacity is installed throughout the US.
There's plenty of biomass opportunity nationwide.
Geothermal is plentiful in some parts, too.

So, with the exception of Alaska, I can't find a single state which doesn't have resources available. Can you?

Kit P.

Paul D, do you have more info about wind in Minnesota? This may help explain the difference to stormy. Washington State is rich in renewable energy. All the windmills, biomass, and hydro were built without the benefit of an RPS. New wind is favorable to existing natural gas.

The next point is that Washington State has a small relative population and exports electricity. I am not sure how much of the renewable energy is contracted to California.

Other states may have resources but the cost of developing poor resources may create a hardship for that state. Therefore, any RPS should be tailored by a state legislator for that state.

Paul Dietz

Paul D, do you have more info about wind in Minnesota?

Not much; you can google it as easily as I can. I did stop and see the wind turbines in the SW corner some years ago when my family was vacationing out in that direction and beyond (to South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana). Got a nice picture of the family standing by a spare wind turbine blade laid out on the ground. Huge thing, even laid out it was taller than they were.

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