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Building a Reliable System: The Role of Natural Gas in Minnesota’s Clean Energy Transition

by | Feb 20, 2024 | News

Minnesota has set ambitious goals for addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2007, the Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA) developed a series of goals to reduce GHG emissions incrementally, aiming for a reduction of 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2030 (all relative to 2005 levels). Minnesota is on track to meet these goals. Between 2005 and 2020, the state reduced emissions by 23%.

In 2022, state leaders recalibrated GHG emissions reduction goals to meet new realities. The Minnesota Climate Action Framework set two primary goals: 50% emissions reduction by 2030 (from 2005 levels) and net-zero emissions by 2050.[1] The State Legislature adopted these targets in 2023.[2]

The state cannot meet these goals without significant reductions in all seven major energy-consuming sectors of our economy: (1) transportation, (2) electricity generation, (3) agriculture, forestry, and land use, (4) industrial, (5) commercial, (6) residential, and (7) waste. In 2005, Electricity Generation was by far the largest source of GHG emissions in Minnesota. However, thanks to a concerted effort from policymakers and investor-owned utilities, total GHG emissions in this sector have fallen by 54%. Electricity generation is now the third-largest source of emissions, leaving industrial, commercial, and residential sectors as important venues for additional reductions.

To meet its GHG emissions reduction goals, Minnesota needs to substantially reduce its use of fossil fuel energy sources, including natural gas. Yet, Minnesotans rely on natural gas to economically heat their homes during the winter, and it is especially needed for the state’s frequent extreme winter temperatures. Nearly 70% of heating energy comes from natural gas. One-fourth of all energy consumed in Minnesota comes from natural gas, with one-quarter of this consumption coming from residential users. Natural gas provides reliable heating to two out of every three homes.[3] While electrical heating sources like heat pumps have made significant technological advances, natural gas is still a vital heat source when temperatures fall below freezing.

A reduction in natural gas consumption must be done in a way that maintains a safe and reliable distribution system and protects lives. While long-term decreases in natural gas consumption are critical to GHG emission reduction goals, we know that natural gas is vital for keeping people’s homes reliably warm and provides an essential bridge fuel to help us achieve our ambitious statewide goals. Ultimately, this report aims to provide analysis that can help inform a safe, reliable, equitable, and affordable path to Minnesota’s GHG emission targets.

Building a Reliable System

[1] State of Minnesota. (2022). Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework.

[2] Minnesota Statute §61.216H.02.01. Utilities: Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Control: Greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goal. (as amended in 2023:

[3] Bob Eleff, “Natural Gas in Minnesota,” Research Department, Minnesota House of Representatives, November 2018.

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