Minnesota, the North Star State, is currently one of the top producers of environmental technologies and renewable energy in the United States. This state is currently setting the pace the nation needs to follow in the race to eliminate the consumption of fossil fuels and carbon footprint reduction. In 2007, Minnesota created their own renewable energy standard, citing that it wanted the state to provide 25 percent of its total electricity using renewable energy by the year 2025. By 2050, Minnesota wants to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 80 percent.
1) Financial Incentives for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. To increase the usage of renewable energy and energy efficiency, Minnesota has created a number of financial incentives for both businesses and residences. Incentives include the Minnesota Renewable Energy Production Incentive, the Wind and Solar-Electric (PV) Systems Exemption, Solar and Wind Energy Sales Tax Exemptions, Renewable Energy Equipment Grant, Solar Energy Legacy Grants for Local Governments, Home Energy Loan Program, Sustainable Energy Loan Fund, Residential Small Wind Rebate Program, and a host of other utility rebate, loan, and grant programs, state rebate, loan, and grant programs, sales tax incentives, and performance-based incentives.
2) Minnesota Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff Bill. In 2008, bill HF 3537 was introduced, requiring the state to implement renewable energy feed-in tariff systems, patterned after those systems in Germany. Minnesota is hoping, with this bill, they will follow the success of Germany’s solar and wind energy development. This bill would require all electric utilities in the state to accept energy generation for renewable power producers “fed into” to the electric grid. These tariffs are meant to assist the state in reaching their renewable energy standard goals.
3) Minnesota Renewable Energy Society. To increase the overall reach of clean technologies and its impact on the state, Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, a non-profit organization, promotes the usage, engagement, and advocacy of renewable energy sources throughout the state through the usage of education and demonstrations. The mission of Minnesota Renewable Energy Society is “To advance a sustainable society and renewable energy economy through education, leadership, and example,” and their vision is “To be a key catalyst in advancing solar energy and in transforming Minnesota’s energy landscape to embrace efficiency and sustainability.” It is through education that it is believed the impact of cleantech can be further advanced.
4) Solar Minnesota. To increase awareness of solar power in Minnesota, Solar Minnesota, part of the United State’s Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative, combines Minnesota businesses, the state government, community organizations, and non-profit organizations, to assist in the elimination of solar energy market barriers, as well as strengthen current and develop new demand within the state for solar energy applications and products. Solar Minnesota offers information on incentives, installations, opportunities for funding, and discussions on solar energy.
5) Renewable Energy Marketplace. To increase the impact of cleantech in Minnesota, there needs to be organizations in place to advance and accelerate the complete adoption of renewable energy technologies throughout Minnesota. The goal of Renewable Energy Marketplace is to market the opportunities in renewable energy resources. Through the use of grants, partial funding is provided to demonstration projects on renewable energy. The company also provides financial assistance, via loans, for different energy projects. Workshops and region meetings further spread the word of renewable energy and to assist in the support of renewable energy.
6) The 25/25 Plan. Minnesota has a plan to ensure that by the year 2025, a minimum of 25 percent of energy comes from renewable sources. Minnesota’s plan is currently the most aggressive in the United States and requires the cooperation of the state government, energy industries, and citizens of the state. The main sectors of the 25/25 Plan include conservation in businesses, homes, and transportation, electricity using biomass, hydroelectricity, hydrogen, geothermal, wind, and solar, heating via solar, geothermal, and biomass, and transportation using biodiesel, hydrogen, and ethanol.
7) Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. An extremely important aspect in boasting clean technologies is the reduction of pollution. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency monitors the quality of the environment, provides financial and technical assistance, and enforces regulations regarding the environment. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency works alongside numerous businesses, government levels, and communities to conserve resources and prevent further pollution. They offer waste management and reduction techniques to the government, businesses, and citizens, monitors the quality of water, and creates laws for the maintenance of air quality, including permits to businesses to control any air pollution they may create.
8 ) Creating Jobs. Between 2000 and 2006, Minnesota was able to double its employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector (not counting hydroelectricity). According to one study, the renewable energy sector will create more jobs than any energy sector based in fossil fuels. Therefore, as Minnesota increases its investment into creating new renewable energy resource companies, there will be an explosion of job opportunities available.
9) Research into Innovation, Products, and Services. Minnesota has done a lot to increase its use of renewable energy sources. For example, the University of Minnesota, in a partnership with Xcel Energy, is currently creating a project where wind power will produce hydrogen, which will then create an agricultural fertilizer. Duluth port ranks number two as the most active for wind turbine shipments. Lastly, in another example, Anderson Trucking Services has more than 200 trucks dedicated to assisting the wind industry.
10) National Renewable Energy Rankings. Minnesota is the third biggest wind energy producer in the United States. Currently, the state generates roughly 300,000 homes with wing power. Minnesota is also the fourth state in ethanol production capacity. Currently, Minnesota produces more than one billion gallons of ethanol. Many businesses in Minnesota, including 3M, Entegris, and ICM Plastics are working to create top-quality fuel cell products.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org