Will Steger’s very personal and compelling Eyewitness to Climate Change presentation has inspired over 60,000 Minnesotans to take action in their homes, congregations and communities since he began presenting in 2006.
The community in support of climate action that Will and our organization have helped to build spurred Minnesota to pass nation-leading renewable energy legislation, aggressive carbon reduction goals and energy efficiency improvements. Will has also shared his eyewitness story with federal legislators, helping to build momentum and a moral urgency around climate action at the national level.
Minnesota has seen tremendous growth as a result of our clean energy policies. Over 15,000 family-sustaining jobs exist today in the clean energy sector, and the sector has grown 78% since 2000. Today we generate over 20% of our electricity from renewables, up from 6% in 2000. Along with a cleaner environment, the job growth and public health benefits of our developing clean energy economy have been significant. In fact, clean energy jobs deliver 42% higher wages than the average job in Minnesota.
From 2013-2014, we worked with the Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs campaign, a coalition of over 60 groups that united to advance Minnesota’s clean energy future by strengthening the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency laws. This coalition succeeded in passing the state’s first solar energy standard in 2013.
We have also built broad-based public support for climate action and clean air protections. With partners, we collected over 10,000 public comments calling on Xcel Energy to examine shutting down the largest coal plant in Minnesota. In 2015, Xcel Energy announced it would retire two of the oldest units at the Sherco Generating Station and transition to natural gas and solar energy on site by 2026.
In 2015 and into 2016, Minnesota began developing a plan to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) first-ever limits of carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan. While the future of the Clean Power Plan is uncertain, we remain engaged in conversations with our decision-makers to build on the strong foundation of climate and clean energy policy that has propelled our state to climate leadership over the years.
This year, which marks the 10-year anniversary of the Next Generation Energy Act, we are calling on Minnesota to increase its clean energy and emissions-reduction ambitions. We need a climate action plan for our state that expands our Renewable Energy Standard to 50% by 2030, and paves the way for a racially and economically just pathway to 100% clean energy by 2050. We must also institutionalize emission reductions to bring us back on track to meeting the Next Generation Energy Act’s goal of an 80% emission reduction by 2050 at the latest. We invite you to join us in the work of making that vision a reality.