- Minnesota Power is aiming to generate 100% of its electricity from carbon-free resources by 2050, the company announced Tuesday.
- Under the plan, the utility will generate 70% of its electricity from renewable power by 2030 and eliminate coal entirely by 2035. Its proposed path would add 400 MW of new wind and solar and stop burning coal from its remaining two coal-fired units — 335 MW and 468 MW of capacity — by 2030 and 2035, respectively.
- Half of Minnesota Power's electricity supply is currently generated by renewable resources, thanks in part to a transmission line the utility energized last year that carries 250 MW of hydropower from Manitoba, Canada, to the utility's northeastern Minnesota territory.
Minnesota Power's Tuesday commitment means that no more coal-fired plants will operate in the state past 2035.
Xcel Energy's two remaining Minnesota coal plants will retire by 2028 and 2030, the utility announced in 2019, following its own 100% carbon-free commitment. Ottertail Power, the state's third investor-owned utility which serves customers in Western Minnesota and throughout North and South Dakota, will retire its Minnesota-based 141 MW Hoot Lake plant by May of this year. Its two other coal-fired plants, co-owned by other utilities and operating in the Dakotas, do not yet have planned retirement dates.
15 years ago, Minnesota Power generated 95% of its power from coal, but since 2013, the company has closed or converted seven of its nine coal plants and added 900 MW of renewable energy.
"For Minnesota Power, this plan is about more than achieving the most significant sustainability goal in our long history – it is about becoming 100 percent carbon-free the right way," CEO Bethany Owen said in a statement.
That includes giving coal plant workers and communities time to transition, said Owen. Stakeholders have been working with Minnesota Power for the past year in order to get them to commit to go coal-free and carbon-free within the next decades, and ensure a just transition for workers and impacted communities.
"[T]he importance of Minnesota Power's announcement yesterday for the state of Minnesota can't be understated — with that announcement of retirement dates for Boswell units 3 and 4, Minnesota will be coal-free by 2035. That was unimaginable just a decade ago," said Mike Bull, director of policy and external affairs at the Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment, one of the stakeholders involved.
Minnesota Power's plan also aims to reduce carbon emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2035. The state has a goal of reducing emissions 80% by 2050, though Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and some in the legislature have attempted to move the state toward carbon-free electricity by mid-century.
The utility is still awaiting approval to begin construction on a proposed 550 MW natural gas-fired power plant that would be sited in Wisconsin. Though it received approval from Minnesota and Wisconsin regulators, a later ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that Minnesota regulators erred in not considering the environmental impacts of the plant. The case is currently pending in the state's Supreme Court.
Minnesota Power will file its plan with regulators by Feb. 1. The integrated resource plan will also include plans to upgrade its transmission and distribution grid as well, according to the utility.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the Minnesota governor's name. It's Tim Walz.