News & Updates

Powering Progress: Transforming Clean Energy Permitting for a Greener Minnesota

by | Mar 11, 2024 | News

In 2023, Governor Walz and the Minnesota Legislature established one of the nation’s most ambitious climate change goals, committing Minnesota to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. While many have rightly cheered this goal, several observers have also pointed out that we must create the infrastructure to reach it. We need the wind and solar farms to generate this clean energy and the transmission lines to carry that energy to the electric grid. Unfortunately, too many clean energy projects remain bogged down in an inefficient permitting process.

This report shows that without significant reforms to Minnesota’s large energy facility permitting process, we could fail to realize our carbon-free ambitions.

Key findings:

  • The pace of clean energy creation must double: If Minnesota added clean energy generation at the rate achieved over the last decade, we would not reach 100% clean electricity until 2062. We will only reach 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 if we double the pace at which we add solar, wind, and other clean power resources.
  • Projects are delayed in permitting: Minnesota’s permitting process for clean energy projects is slower than necessary, due in part to inefficiencies. For example, large transmission lines that move clean energy across the electric grid are in the permitting process for an average of 673 days.
  • The permitting process is getting slower: Despite the increased urgency to combat climate change, clean energy projects are taking longer to get through the permitting process. For example, solar projects started in 2015 took an average of 300 days to receive a permit for construction. By contrast, solar projects started in 2019 saw an average time of 549 days.
  • Our future capacity is being delayed: The energy capacity of clean energy projects waiting for permits and/or transmission interconnection in Minnesota is nearly double that of the state’s existing clean energy generation fleet. These potential projects are being held back by transmission congestion which is exacerbated by permitting delays.
  • Minnesota is falling behind its neighbors: While none of Minnesota’s neighbors have clean energy targets that match our ambitions, they are generally outpacing us in clean energy generation growth. For example, Iowa and South Dakota’s share of electricity coming from wind and solar sources increased nearly four times more than Minnesota’s share between 2017 and 2022.

To reverse this trend, Minnesota should make several changes to speed up the permitting process for clean energy projects. These include making the process more consistent across types of projects, eliminating redundancies, and simplifying public input opportunities. With the urgency of addressing climate change becoming increasingly apparent, saving this time is more critical now than ever.

Full Report

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