Energy sustainability

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and members of the Next Generation Energy Board announced recipients of $3 million worth of state grants on Thursday that will go toward developing renewable energy projects and biofuels. But letâÄôs not forget about sustainability. The Next Generation Energy Board awarded the University of MinnesotaâÄôs department of forestry a commendable $100,000 to fund a study that will look at the sustainability of MinnesotaâÄôs 16 million acres of forest that will supply an increasing demand of wood for biomass energy. Out of 28 submitted proposals, eight received funding, totaling $3 million, with the biggest recipient being Central Minnesota Ethanol Partnership. The partnership received $910,000 for a study that will determine the feasibility of building the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Minnesota. The main purpose of the grants is to provide funding for projects that accelerate development leading to achieving energy independence, rural economic vitality and agricultural and natural resources sustainability. These are all parts of the 2007 Energy Act that commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent within seven years, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. However, the Legislature appropriated $3 million for the NextGen grant program. In addition, the NextGen Energy Board, which consists of 20 members, whose purpose has been to make recommendations to the Legislature and the governor on clean energy policy, is set to expire on June 30. The grants are commendable and could bring commercialization into energy technology âÄî a field that the state should continue to fund despite an upcoming budget shortfall.