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Our state needs reliable, affordable access to energy

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


By Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake

California has experienced an unreliable power grid. Texas has suffered catastrophic power outages.  Now, the impacts recently have been felt in Minnesota, with rolling blackouts in parts of our state. 

While there may be different factors contributing to each scenario, the fact remains: We need a reliable, diverse grid in Minnesota to ensure affordable energy is there when we need it most. 

That said, energy proposals put forth by the House majority would take us the opposite direction. The restrictions they propose ultimately would compromise our grid, leaving us vulnerable to the problems Texas, California and even our own state have encountered – all while increasing our energy bills. 

I have been closely monitoring this situation as a member of the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. Among items on our agenda, we have discussed a bill (H.F. 278) House Democrats are pushing to create a new mandate for 100 percent carbon-free electricity in 2040 (yes, in less then 20 years). 

The bill also directs the state’s Public Utilities Commission to implement new mandates in favor of labor union and other specified groups. It says you must be part of an apprentice program to work on wind and solar projects, effectively creating a union-only requirement.

In Minnesota, only 20 percent of the construction workforce belongs to a union – i.e. enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program. The vast majority of construction workers in the state would not be able to be hired on a project in their own city if they aren’t in a registered apprenticeship program.

It’s hard enough finding the qualified contractors, subcontractors, and workers to do this specialized work and this bill would only further limit the pool. 

On one hand, our new president is shutting down certain energy industries and telling people he is putting out of work to get a job in solar or wind. With this bill, you can’t do that unless you’re in a union.

I thought we were “One Minnesota.”

Aside from raising energy rates on Minnesota families and reducing the reliability of our power grid, the majority’s approach also continues to exclude key technologies like hydro and nuclear. I offered an amendment to H.F. 278 allowing us to implement carbon-capturing technology and support more reliable baseload power, but the majority blocked it.

Why would you not capitalize on technology that is already there and use it in our favor to help us during high demand? 

This push to reduce our energy options, thereby limiting our baseload capacity, is coming at a time demand for electricity is rising. For example, the governor wants to force more electric cars into our market by placing California’s mandatory auto-emission standards on vehicles sold in Minnesota. By the way, electric cars do not perform particularly well in cold weather, just another aspect where we need options. 

Again, our energy policies should focus on delivering affordable, reliable energy to Minnesotans. An all-of-the-above energy approach is the best way to ensure your family is warm and safe when the brutally cold temperatures we just experienced return.  

The House majority’s agenda limits our options and raises our costs. It compromises our grid’s stability and leaves us vulnerable – increasing the likelihood of waking up to a cold, dark house – just hoping the pipes don’t freeze. 

Let’s embrace technology and the all-of-the above approach on energy, acknowledging reality instead of inviting trouble by handcuffing our state’s options.


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