Bill brings renewability

Gov. Pawlenty signed the leading renewable energy bill at the St. Paul campus.

Charley Bruce

Gov. Tim Pawlenty stopped by the University on Thursday to make Minnesota a renewable energy leader.

Pawlenty signed legislation setting higher renewable energy standards for Minnesota’s energy suppliers on the St. Paul campus, home to the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.

“This bill puts Minnesota at the head of the pack,” Pawlenty said. “If it’s not the most aggressive renewable energy standard, it’s certainly one of them.”

The legislation requires 25 percent of Minnesota’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2025. Xcel Energy will have to attain 30 percent by 2020.

Pawlenty said he wants to use energy policy to bring economic growth to rural communities.

“Being able to provide jobs and capital investment to greater Minnesota is a wonderful benefit of this policy,” Pawlenty said.

The bill will strengthen the greater Minnesota economy and keep people employed and in their communities, he said.

“We’re providing our farmers a thousand added opportunities to not just produce and sell a commodity,” the governor said, “but (commodities) will be processed in a way that helps provide opportunities.”

Pawlenty thanked legislators for their hard work pushing the bill through the legislature.

The House passed the legislation with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 123-10; the Senate passed it 63-3.

“This is a great example of bipartisan work,” Pawlenty said.

Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, said the energy committee, which she chairs, pulled municipalities, environmental groups and energy suppliers together to discuss renewable energy goals.

“Once we had everybody at the table we realized we had much more in common than we had differences,” she said.

Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul authored the bill.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a very long time,” she said.

She introduced her first renewable energy standard bill in 2001.

“Big ideas can take a long time to get through and gain support,” Anderson said.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said she saw her father’s work on a southern Minnesota farm change from horse-powered to computer-assisted farming growing up.

“He always told me, ‘You know kid, there’s really nothing good about the good old days. There’s always change,’ ” she said.

Kelliher said she felt the winds of change blow through the house chambers when the bill passed Monday and hopes the gust was felt at the bill signing.

Those in attendance were in high spirits. Before Pawlenty signed the bill, he excused key legislators who trickled in late.

“Parking is terrible at the University,” the governor said. “You’d think for all they charge in tuition, they’d have better parking.”