- More than 1,500 state residents have expressed concern that Minnesota Power is not investing heavily enough in renewable energy, according to the Duluth chapter of the Sierra Club, Smart Grid News reports.
- The utility's 15-year plan, proposed last year, would move from about 75% coal generation to a third each coal, gas and renewables. But while the plan calls for ceasing operations at two units in the Taconite Harbor coal plant, critics say it also includes no new wind generation.
- The comment period at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission closed last week, and regulators will now sift through the application and submissions.
While Sierra Club was careful to praise Minnesota Power for taking steps forward, the group issued a statement last week which questions whether or not the utility and its customers are on the same page.
Lucinda West, a freshman at University of Minnesota Duluth and task force leader of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group Duluth chapter, said “everyone was shocked when they heard that Minnesota Power wasn’t planning on adding any more wind power in the next 15 years ... Minnesota Power seems out of touch to not add more of this affordable energy for their customers.”
But the utility is making progress – it once had a generation mix that was 95% coal. ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Alan Hodnik, in announcing the IRP, pointed out that "each year, our customers are served by electricity which comes from a more diverse set of clean power sources, and we are meeting our goals in a way that protects our customers, the communities we serve and the quality of life in our region.”
Still, environmentalists want the utility to move faster. The state gets about 44% of its power from coal, and by comparison, Minnesota Power is currently using 75%.
“All around the country we see great examples of utilities answering the call to shifting their energy production to renewable energy but not with Minnesota Power,” James Hietala, a MN Power customer, said in Sierra Club's statement. “We need to see commitments that make a positive impact on our air and water quality to ensure that future generations can enjoy the northern Minnesota that we enjoy.”