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    Utilities & Clean Power Groups: MN Must Match US Funds

    June 6, 2022 - Public News Service



      Leaders in Minnesota's energy industry say the federal infrastructure law puts the state in a good position to reduce its carbon footprint. But they warn inaction on providing matching funds could stall progress.

      State lawmakers recently adjourned their session without passing supplemental spending bills - including matching funds to unlock Minnesota's share of federal infrastructure money.

      The state is poised to get $7 billion over the next several years. But Jamie Fitzke, director of legislative affairs for the Center for Energy and Environment, said not matching the federal money adds difficulty to their work.

      "What we're going to end up doing is ceding a lot of that growth," said Fitzke, "that job opportunity that we have in clean energy and energy efficiency to other states. And that really isn't something that we should be squandering."

      The federal law provides Minnesota with $568 million to address climate issues, with a state match of $20 million in fiscal year 2023.

      Gov. Tim Walz urges lawmakers to finalize agreements and meet in special session. Some Republicans have signaled support for acting quickly, but others say there's no urgency.

      Some of the federal funding involves competitive grants among states, and some money would go toward upgrading the power grid. The funding could come just as grid regulators warn the Midwest could see rolling blackouts this summer.

      Darrick Moe, CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, said the aid is a big priority for electric co-ops.

      "Grid resiliency is badly needed," said Moe. "It's not a roadblock to the energy transition - it's actually a cornerstone to the energy transition - to make sure that the grid resiliency investments are made."

      Clean energy advocates say adding grid capacity could help wind and solar projects move forward, and Minnesota Power notes that leveraging the federal funds will benefit their customers.

      Moe also points out there's nearly $70 million to expand electric-vehicle charging here - with the state asked to provide about $3 million a year. He said that could help ease what he calls "range anxiety."

      "We'd love to see a broader sweep across all of greater Minnesota, over the five years of the infrastructure bill," said Moe. "To make sure people can drive anywhere and count on getting a fast charge."

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