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How Did Minnesota Pass a 100 Percent Clean Electricity Standard? We Talked to the Experts

Evergreen interviewed Minnesota House Majority Leader Jamie Long and Fresh Energy Executive Director Michael Noble, who were both instrumental in passing 100 percent carbon-free electricity in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz signs the bill that puts Minnesota on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. Michael Noble and Rep Jamie Long celebrate behind him.
Gov. Tim Walz signs the bill that puts Minnesota on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. Michael Noble and Rep Jamie Long celebrate behind him. (Source: Rep. Jamie Long on Twitter)

The North Star State has a new North Star: 100 percent clean electricity–and fast. 

After years of diligent work from legislators and advocates, on February 7, Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill that puts Minnesota on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040—among the most ambitious clean electricity standards (CES) in the nation. Minnesota joins 10 other states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in creating laws that require a transition to 100 percent carbon-free electricity—highlighting a trend of state-level action to act on climate, create local jobs, lower energy costs, and reduce deadly pollution. 

A few days later, we were thrilled to sit down with Representative Jamie Long, Majority Leader of the Minnesota House, and Fresh Energy executive director Michael Noble to talk about how this enormous victory came to be. Both Michael and Rep. Long played key roles in making 100 percent clean electricity the law of the land in the state, and we covered questions like: 

State leadership like that shown by legislators and advocates in Minnesota demonstrates that the economic, social, and environmental benefits of decarbonizing our economy are no longer a thing of the future but an opportunity to be seized now. What follows is a transcript of the interview, edited for brevity and clarity.

Rep. Jamie Long posted a celebratory photo after the Minnesota Senate passed the 100 percent clean bill. Rep. Long is on the right and Michael Noble is directly next to him.

Rep. Jamie Long posted a celebratory photo after the Minnesota Senate passed the 100 percent clean bill. Rep. Long is on the right and Michael Noble is directly next to him. (Source: Rep. Long on Twitter)

Evergreen: What a week! Governor Walz just signed legislation into law that puts Minnesota on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. And both of you were instrumental in this historic effort. So we have to ask, how are you feeling?

Rep. Jamie Long: Well, I am incredibly excited. This has been a lot of hard work to get to this point. We introduced the 100 percent clean energy standard four years ago, basically to the week that we got it signed. And we've been pushing really hard, working with Governor Walz hand-in-hand to try to get this done. So it was extremely gratifying to see Governor Walz sign the bill with a huge coalition of environmental activists and climate activists, labor partners, business partners. We had a big team there at the signing ceremony and the mood was great. People were extremely enthusiastic and there was a lot of emotion in the room.

Michael Noble: I'm in a good mood every day. This actually has been coming now for four years. That's how long the bill has been pending, waiting for action. Representative Long managed to pass it twice in the House of Representatives, but it never got a hearing at all in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. So people were complaining that this was moving too fast. But the basic structure and language of the bill has been available for everyone to read for more than four years. We're very, very, very excited that this has become law.

Evergreen: So, Majority Leader Long, you sponsored this bill in this session and in past sessions. But for those who might have just heard about this victory in Minnesota, can you give a 101 on the clean electricity standard and how it works and how it makes sure Minnesota reaches 100 percent carbon-free electricity?

Rep. Long: Absolutely. Well, we've had renewable energy standards around for some time. And in Minnesota, we passed a 25 percent renewable energy target by 2025 back in 2007. Michael can give you all the good stories on how that came to be, but I'll just highlight that it was a bipartisan bill at that point and it was signed by a Republican governor, then Tim Pawlenty. And the standard was met in 2017.

So it seemed like a really big, hard goal to get to 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. But as you all know, it's 2023. We're not there yet, and we met it eight years early. So we have seen across the country a lot of states do renewable energy standards, but more recently we have seen a move towards 100 percent clean energy standards, so carbon-free electricity.

And the goal is that you have a technology-agnostic approach that is focused solely on carbon emissions. How do we get carbon out of our electricity sector? And we have three targets in our bill for a clean electricity standard: 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035, and 100 percent by 2040. We also set another target for a renewable electricity standard of 55 percent by 2035, wanting to make sure we were carrying that forward as a baseline for renewable energy as a part of the overall system.

But it's pretty simple. All the utilities now have targets that they have to meet and they have a lot of flexibility in how they get there, in terms of the technologies that they can use that are carbon-free to meet that standard. But by 2040, we won't have any more greenhouse gas emissions coming out of our electric sector.

Evergreen: Michael, you've been in this fight for a long time. What kind of advocacy work, especially in the last few years, did it take to get a clean electricity standard across the finish line? And what were some of the short term wins that built to this moment and perhaps that others around the country could look to replicate going forward?

Noble: I'll answer those questions in the reverse order. I mean, the short term wins–I always point to 1994, 2001, 2007, 2013. So, this has really been a 30-year renewable energy, clean energy, carbon-free power sector strategy. It's been kind of the central strategic priority of Fresh Energy since our founding in 1990: How do we get the modern energy efficient, carbon-free electricity supply? 

So I'm not going to tell you about each of those benchmarks, but there were four big landmark improvements setting the direction of getting carbon out of our electricity supply. But the more important question you asked is: Well, why is it different? How is it different? What capacity was added? 

You know, our funding partners and philanthropy partners in Minnesota over the last five or six years in particular have really filled out a kind of an ecosystem of advocacy and organization. We have a business-friendly trade association for clean energy businesses that didn't exist six or eight years ago. We have a consumer advocacy group that focuses on long-term affordability through efficiency and renewables.

We have an enormous grassroots coalition called the 100 Percent Campaign, which brought traditionally underrepresented voices into the battle–Brown and Black voices, environmental justice voices, organizations focused on things like wealth building or community development or racial equity. Those have all been a really incredibly important part of this coalition and were, you know, well-funded, well-organized, well-structured coalition partners. In the old days when it was nonpartisan, I mean, Representative Long already pointed this out. The 2007 renewable energy standard, I think, was supported by well over 90 percent of members of both political parties and was signed by a Republican governor. But this time, this was very, very similar to what happened in the United States Congress on the Inflation Reduction Act.

"We have an enormous grassroots coalition called the 100% Campaign, which brought traditionally-underrepresented voices into the battle—Brown and Black voices, environmental justice voices, organizations focused on things like wealth building or community development or racial equity."

Michael Noble

We got every single Democratic vote and we got absolutely zero Republican votes. So – and I don't blame our team for not being bipartisan. I point out that the oil and coal industry set out a deliberate strategy to take over one of America's two political parties, and that was absolutely complete by 2012. 

So through no fault of our own, we've had to build a coalition within the Democratic Party, and the coalition we built is small business, families, family-supporting jobs and labor and trade unions, environmental justice groups, environmental groups, and traditional advocates for renewable energy. But the coalition that Representative Long had was just incredibly broader and more diverse, even though it only was able to move half the political spectrum in Minnesota.

Evergreen: Representative Long, why did you target a CES specifically and what sets a CES apart from other policies?

Rep. Long: Well, until very recently, the electric sector was the largest greenhouse gas-producing sector in Minnesota. We have a report that comes out from our pollution control agency every couple of years that looks at greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota and the report two times ago had a tie, a three-way tie between the electric sector, the agricultural sector, and the transportation sector in Minnesota.

If you look nationally, it's usually electricity and transportation, but we're an agricultural-producing state, so we have a lot of emissions in the agricultural sector as well. Just last week, they released an update to that report. And now transportation is the largest, followed by agriculture with electricity third. So the electric sector has seen reductions, according to this report, of 54 percent since 2005 in our greenhouse gas emissions in the state. So it's been dramatic. And so when we're looking at “What sector do we want to target first for the overall climate benefits?,” it's clearly the electric sector. We know that that's the one that's moving the fastest, that is the easiest to decarbonize overall. And we also know that it unlocks the ability to decarbonize many of the other sectors.

So transportation, we're seeing huge growth in electric vehicles. Vice President Kamala Harris was in Minnesota literally yesterday touring an electric bus manufacturing plant in Saint Cloud and touting electric vehicles as having huge potential for job growth across the country. And it certainly is in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where we have many people manufacturing electric buses that are going to New York City and Minneapolis and places around the country.

"When we're looking at ‘What sector do we want to target first for the overall climate benefits?,’ it's clearly the electric sector. We know that that's the one that's moving the fastest, that is the easiest to decarbonize overall. And we also know that it unlocks the ability to decarbonize many of the other sectors."

Rep. Jamie Long

It also unlocks, unlocks electrification in the building sector and the industrial sector, where we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, too. So it's sort of the foundation for being able to do a lot of the other work we need to do in decarbonization. 

We also have seen in the past in Congress and in a lot of states conversations around doing an economy-wide approach, whether that's a carbon tax or a cap and trade bill. And I think there is a lot to be said for those types of approaches, but they've proven really difficult to accomplish because when you're trying to do everything everywhere all at once, then you tend to have a lot of pushback from everybody, right? You are fighting on all fronts at once. 

And so having a sector-by-sector approach has been politically a lot easier to accomplish. And I also think it makes some sense because you can develop solutions and approaches that work for each sector. And so we took a big bite out of the electric sector with this bill. But now we get to turn our attention to some of the other big challenges in the state, like transportation and buildings.

Evergreen: Michael, historic victories like this don't happen overnight and they don't happen alone. So there were actually some pretty unexpected allies, it sounds like. What kind of coalition helped make this happen?

Noble: Well, the coalition, again, was quite broad and diverse, and I have to give a lot of credit to first the trades and labor community in Minnesota, spearheaded by the Laborers’ Union, LIUNA, who stood on the podium with Governor Walz when he announced this. And it wasn't necessarily a popular position across the entire building trades back then, but it certainly is today.

And we also, late in the game, had very strong and very vocal and articulate support from the carpenters union and the Association of the Building Trades in general, broadly. So this was quite a strong labor bill and, of course, I should mention that the language was very specific in the bill that this be a high-wage industry on which a family can be supported. Not low-wage jobs, but high value jobs, which is consistent with the Inflation Reduction Act and President Biden's vision as well.

The second unlikely ally, as I mentioned, is consumer advocate groups who just are pushing for cheaper bills and reliable power and affordability for families that might not be high net-worth families or comfortable financially. Citizens Utility Board is an absolutely fantastic organization and they just kept their eye on the ball of affordability. So whenever arguments were made that this is going to hurt working people or people on fixed incomes or grandma in Fergus Falls, the Citizens Utility Board was there to say that the prices of all these technologies are falling and falling and falling and falling. And then lastly, again, the environmental justice community showed up and I think maybe one of your next questions is about the importance of E.J. and E.J. communities in the dialog. So I'll hold on that.

Evergreen: That leads well into my next question for Representative Long: What makes this law so impactful and what does it mean for Minnesotans? Michael mentioned some of the savings for consumers, for example.

Rep. Long: Well, at the highest level, Minnesota is one of the fastest warming states in the nation. And so we have seen the impacts of climate change more dramatically than almost any other state. As one example, I'm 41. In my lifetime, the average January low temperature in Minnesota has risen by nine degrees. So that is just a dramatic and very noticeable change in our state, which certainly impacts our way of life and some of our preferred outdoor activities like pond hockey and cross-country skiing.

But it also has more serious impacts like pushing out some of our iconic species in the state. The loon is our state bird and is likely going to be gone if we don't do what we need to do to address climate change. Most populations are dwindling in the state and we're seeing increases in Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases.

So we need to address climate change and do it quickly. 

But in terms of benefits to Minnesota, cost is clearly a huge benefit. We know that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy that we have available right now and we have seen utility after utility in our state pass on cost savings to consumers when they are moving away from fossil fuel plants and towards renewable energy. In particular in recent years, with gas prices spiking and having all of that fuel volatility passed on to ratepayers, that's been a huge impact on family budgets. If we have a flat cost for wind and solar, that's going to be much more predictable and much cheaper for Minnesota ratepayers, too. 

And then the job impacts are huge. We don't have any fossil fuel production in Minnesota. We import $13 billion a year in fossil fuels to the state and those jobs are created somewhere else. And I certainly can appreciate those states wanting to fight for those jobs, but it's my job to fight for Minnesota jobs and if we are installing wind and solar right here in the state, we have great resources in wind and solar. That will mean creating excellent jobs here in Minnesota. And I think Michael spoke to the huge labor coalition that we had in support of the bill, which I think speaks to the benefits of installing wind and solar here in Minnesota. 

When we were early movers as a state on renewable energy standards in the past, that did kickstart some really important industries in our state. We have two of the largest renewable energy installers anywhere in the country. And when you combine the wind that they have installed, over 50 percent of all wind turbines installed nationwide in the last decade were installed by Minnesota companies.

Evergreen: That is an amazing economic story. Absolutely. And so for both of you, we know that passing legislation is just the first step in the process. How should government officials and advocates be thinking about successfully implementing this new law?

Noble: This law is going to be implemented over the next seventeen years by everybody who worked on it. The utilities are required by law to do public process for resource planning. And resource planning is very, very, very vigorous and high-quality in Minnesota. The investor-owned utilities that are more closely regulated by the Public Utilities Commission have a more rigorous public process. But we were working to persuade the cooperative utilities to, you know, show their homework a little better as to how they come to the resource decisions they come to. 

But Fresh Energy and a lot of these other groups that participated in the legislative process will definitely be involved at the Public Utilities Commission–making sure that, again, that we don't sacrifice anything on reliability, don't sacrifice anything on affordability, that we keep these high-wage jobs.

And you know, what I've been saying is that we really deeply understand 80 to 90 percent of the tools in the toolbox. And because of the Inflation Reduction Act, they're all on sale for ten years, some of them 30 percent off and some of them, even other additional public support. But if you have everything on sale, 30 percent off for ten years, and then you have the North Star of the policy saying, “This is where you have to get to by 2040,” Minnesota utilities are phenomenal at taking the challenge. 

The biggest electric utility, I think three or four times in the last five days, said they are excited to have their own internal goals moved from 2050 carbon-free to 2040 carbon-free. But [the head of the utility] also reminded everybody, “I'm going to need help. I'm going to need help on being able to recover my costs and having approval for siting and the transmission that I might need to build and the solar siting and the wind siting. And I'm also going to need some new technologies.”

Rep. Long: And I'll agree with Michael that our utilities have been really good partners on this. And that's not necessarily true in every state. And it hasn't always been true in Minnesota either, to be frank. But Xcel Energy, our largest utility, was the first in the nation to commit to a 100 percent clean energy standard for themselves. As Michael mentioned, they set a goal of 2050. So this is moving that goal a full decade earlier. 

But at the bill signing, their CEO said they're going to meet it. So they're going to get to 100 percent by 2040. And we have our second- and third-largest utilities in the state, both had also committed to carbon-free energy. And one of those utilities serves a largely industrial load in northern Minnesota with mining and timber. So it's a very different energy profile than a lot of utilities around the country. I think we do have utilities that understand this is the direction we need to move. But as Michael mentioned, there will need to be help there. I think transmission is going to be key. The MISO, our Midwest Intercontinental System Operator, has committed now to the largest transmission investment in U.S. history in our region. And that's going to be critical to get right, to make sure that we have the build out of our transmission system that's going to allow for the clean energy that we need to meet these standards. 

And we also are going to need to be engaged at the Utilities Commission to make sure that all of our utilities in the state, including our small ones, our municipal and cooperative utilities, are getting the support they need to make this transition.

I think the work just starts here with the standard. We're also going to have to pass, I think, additional legislation that will help meet the goal. Part of that is going to be putting in state matching dollars to the Inflation Reduction Act. There are a lot of tools that the federal government has now made possible for Minnesota, including in deployment of transmission and research and new technologies. We're going to be prioritizing, trying to do our share at the state level to invest in that as well.

Evergreen: Can you say a bit about why transmission is so essential to achieving this 100 percent target?

Noble: We're in a regional energy and electricity economy and in partnership with other states and regions–the Mid-American Independent System Operator, which manages its electrical system together. And that extends literally from the top of Manitoba all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. So we have a lot of collaborating utilities and collaborating states. And also, Minnesota is very, very blessed geographically, being just west of some of the windiest places in the world and just south of hydro and places with wide-open spaces nearby. So transmission ties us together. And the other way to remember it is that when it's not windy in Nebraska, maybe it's windy in Minnesota. And when it's not windy in Minnesota, maybe it's windy in Nebraska. 

We need to have our grid tied together by transmission connectivity. It just makes everything cheaper, everything more reliable and everything easier to achieve. You know, if we had no new transmission investment, we would be pushing up against the limits of these two resources that are variable. But with transmission, you get much, much, much higher penetrations. 

And the one other thing I would add is if you look at the whole climate change puzzle–the electricity sector, as is obvious to everyone, is just a pie wedge. And we need to decarbonize transportation and decarbonize buildings and decarbonize heavy industry. But the first and most promising and cheapest way to decarbonize those other sectors is to electrify everything we can.

Rep. Long: I'll just add briefly that in the 100 percent clean energy bill, we included several provisions to help speed up the regulatory process for transmission in Minnesota, and those were broadly supported stakeholder agreements. But we knew that having adequate transmission was critical to having the ability to build out the 100 percent clean energy system that we need. So that was a key part of our bill as well.

Evergreen: So another key consideration for this bill was environmental justice. Can you, Michael, tell us a bit about what this new clean electricity standard would mean for environmental justice communities?

Noble: Again, I want to compliment, especially by name, the 100 Percent Campaign for broadly organizing the EJ community and making it a full partner in the debate and discussion and passage of this bill. Lots of door knocking, grassroots support, new voices, new organizations, organizations that do their primary work in languages other than English were full partners in the 100 Percent Campaign.

But I think a complement to the EJ story is the just transition story. How do we take care of the communities where the old fossil fuel jobs are being lost as we transition? I see these as two pieces of the puzzle that fit together. Environmental justice and just transition are the justice agenda. And the bill is not a full EJ bill. The bill has several important EJ components to it. It defines what an EJ community is. It makes sure that EJ communities’ top policy priority is addressed, that the waste energy facility in a brown and Black community in North Minneapolis is not approved as a renewable energy resource in the bill. But it also really strongly deals with these transitional issues for communities that were hosts to the fossil fuel industry and, you know, kept Minnesota's energy system reliable over these last 50 years.

We want to make sure that those communities on both sides of that justice agenda are brought into the clean energy vision and the clean energy future. 

The other thing to say is that this bill isn't going to do everything. It is sort of a clean policy priority, driving to get all the carbon out of the electricity supply and we have four months left in our legislative session. I strongly predict there'll be plenty of other debates about energy policy, climate policy, and environmental justice as well.

Rep. Long: We added a few provisions in the bill, too, that spoke specifically to environmental justice. So one is that the bill does include the option for utilities to seek changes to the standard if they believe that there are issues to affordability and reliability for the utility. And that's in our existing renewable energy standard and was something that was carried forward.

But we wanted to make sure that if that was a conversation at the Public Utilities Commission, that environmental justice concerns would be taken into account when making those decisions. And so that was explicitly included in the bill. And then there was also a facility that's located near a predominantly Black community in Minneapolis that's a waste energy facility. And under our old renewable energy standard, it counted as renewable energy. 

And we heard a number of concerns from that local community that treating burning trash the same as the wind and the sun was deeply offensive to them and didn't fully appreciate the air pollution that was cumulatively contributing to the worst asthma rates in the state in that community. So we removed that from the definition of renewable energy standards.

That facility will no longer be able to sell renewable energy credits or count towards the utility's renewable energy standards. That was an important win for the environmental justice community as well.

Evergreen: What lessons have you learned in this fight and how might other legislators and advocates in other states make something similar happen back at home?

Rep. Long: Well, the first lesson I would say is building a broad coalition. I think Michael spoke to some of the pieces that were a part of this. But the two I'll speak to specifically were the importance of labor. We know that in the past, often there has been a bit of an unfortunate tension with labor and environmental priorities.

And I think we know that a lot of the existing fossil fuel plants have good union jobs. I think in Minnesota we've seen that there is a transition underway. And even if we didn't pass this policy, because of the pressures of cost and economics, at some point the fossil fuel plants in Minnesota were going to close.

Our bill is going to push that timeline up a lot faster than I think would have happened otherwise. And so that route required some real trust from the hardworking people of Minnesota that if we're going to be moving away from some jobs that they have now that are good jobs, we were going to be able to help provide them other good jobs, and hopefully more good jobs than they would have otherwise had.

So we included a prevailing wage standard in the bill to make sure that all of the jobs were well paid. We included local labor preferences so that the Public Utilities Commission could look at the impact of particular projects on hiring for Minnesota workers. And we also prioritized siting renewable energy projects in communities where there was a retirement of a fossil fuel plant. We tried to be really intentional about helping local communities and workers that are going to be impacted by this transition through no fault of their own. 

And then I think the other piece that was important was keeping a strong coalition within the legislature. I'm a progressive Democrat from Minneapolis. My coauthor was Senator Nick Frentz who would consider himself, I think, a moderate Democrat from Greater Minnesota, from a rural community. And our governor, Tim Walz, is also from a rural community. And the three of us worked really closely together, arm in arm, to come up with the targets that we wanted to achieve, the strategy we wanted to pursue. And we did not allow for us to be wedged or divided.

We passed a bill through the Minnesota House that had been pre-negotiated with the governor and the Minnesota Senate. And so it meant that there were no changes made in the Senate and the governor requested no changes, and it went straight to his desk for a signature. That's not easy to accomplish. But it was a big deal for us because it meant that we were all able to speak with one voice as we were having negotiations with our partners. Those would be the two things I'd mention.

“The three of us worked really closely together, arm in arm, to come up with the targets that we wanted to achieve, the strategy we wanted to pursue. And we did not allow for us to be wedged or divided.”

Rep. Jamie Long on working with Sen. Frentz and Gov. Waltz

Noble: I'm just going to reinforce what Representative Long just said. But I'm going to put out the statement that Representative Long demonstrated a master class in legislative strategy. Normally the Senate doesn't give a damn what's going on over there in the House, and the House doesn't pay too much attention to what's going on over in the Senate. And then they maybe have conflicts that they have to sort out late in the game. 

But the progressive senators were watching a signal from Representative Long in the House and the more moderate, centrist rural Democrats in the House were watching the signal from Senator Frentz. So the House and the Senate worked as one legislature on behalf of the people of Minnesota.

The legislature just convened on what was it, January 3? And by January 15, just ten or 12 days later, I think all the actors realized, “Oh, we can't drive a wedge between the House and the Senate. They're talking to each other every day.” And it just doesn't happen usually. It almost never happens.

And I also want to compliment all of our Minnesota utilities. Maybe people were thinking, “Oh, I wonder what Representative Long caved on or I wonder what Fresh Energy caved on or wonder what the 100 Percent Campaign caved on.” But Representative Long didn't cave on anything. He listened to thoughtful suggestions from utility partners on how to make the bill better and make it more achievable and make it higher confidence. So there is not going to be confusion about or debate about whether they're going to pull it off. 

Every single improvement that the utilities suggested that Representative Long and Senator Frentz agreed to, every single one of them made the bill stronger and better–not weaker, not sellout, not caved–but a better, smarter, more comprehensive bill that has the support of our utility industry.

And the fact that this is a five-month legislative session and this bill basically was settled and decided more or less by the 20th of January. When would you say, Representative Long? It was decided by the 15th or the 20th of January. Maybe there was one little change after that?

Rep Long: Yeah. 

Noble: That's a pretty remarkable achievement. And a master class in legislating by Representative Long and Senator Frentz.

Evergreen: Absolutely. Hopefully we can replicate that success in other states around the country. We know that climate advocates, folks who care about these issues are really looking to Minnesota's leadership, and would love to see that success replicated.

Rep. Long: Well, thank you, Michael. I appreciate that compliment. I'll throw some praise back at Michael, which is that he has been working in this space for a long time and has paved the way for making this bill possible. It would not have been possible but for the work that was done in 2007, that was done in 2013-14, for the long advocacy that led to this point and Fresh Energy’s partnership was critical every step of the way, as we were negotiating the bill with technical support and coalition support and having trusted relationships themselves with our utility partners and our environmental and climate partners. It was a good partnership.

Evergreen: Can we ask just quickly, both of you, when did you know that it was going to happen, that you were going to get this bill passed and signed? 

Noble: [laughs] I knew it would pass at about two in the morning on November 9th, but I didn't know it would be as good as it was. [laughs] When did you know it would pass, Representative Long?

Rep. Long: No, I agree with Michael. 

Noble: That was Election Day, by the way. It was Election Day.

Rep. Long: The Minnesota House has been in Democratic control for four years now and we passed the 100 percent clean energy bill twice. So I was confident we could pass the House. But the Senate flipped and there’s a one vote majority in the Senate. So I didn't quite know on the ninth because...

Noble: [laughs] You hadn't even met these guys! 

Rep. Long: I hadn't met the new senators yet. And I needed to see what their positions were. But I'll just highlight one example. We had a senator who came in representing a light red district, a district that Trump won in rural Minnesota. It's had Democratic representation before and and I was wondering how he might view climate and clean energy issues. And then I found out that he was a local meteorologist. [laughs] And he has been speaking about climate change to his community for decades and trying to help them understand the impacts that this is going to have on agriculture and on their infrastructure. And so that was when I knew, “Okay, I think we're going to be fine.”

Noble: Like literally on TV every night. The local trusted weather guy is now the new senator.

Rep. Long: Exactly. So we had some amazing support from the new Senate colleagues over there. But I also agree with Michael. I didn't know if we could pass a bill as good as the one we passed. I was worried we might have had to make more compromises. But we stuck together and we passed a bill I think we can be really proud of.

Noble: I believe the utilities are actually very proud of it, too. They were a little bit surprised that two weeks in, “Oh, they're doing this now?” They were a little bit surprised. But I think if you went around and interviewed the utilities, they would say, “This was a very, very good legislative process. And the legislators listened and heard us out. We didn't get everything we wanted, but we got everything we had to have.”

Evergreen: Did you do anything to celebrate? 

Rep. Long: We had a great bill signing. It was at the Saint Paul Labor Federation, so we were in the house of labor, which was very appropriate for the coalition we built. And yeah, we've had a couple parties and I think we got one more coming up next week.

Evergreen: Michael, you're going on vacation. 

Noble: Yeah. And I'm also – I spent 30 years rewiring Minnesota and now I'm rewiring my life. My last day on the job is May 26, so I only have 70 workdays left with Fresh Energy after I get back from vacation.

Rep. Long: This was Michael's retirement present. That was great. Thank you both. I really appreciate this.

Noble: A lot of polish! You guys are doing a good job. Evergreen is punching well above its weight. Evergreen’s doing a good job. Thank you.

Evergreen: Thanks, Michael.  We appreciate that.

Noble: Okay. Nice to see you both. Thank you all. Thank you, Jamie.

Rep. Long: Thanks, Michael.


Want to learn more about the critical role of states on the path to 100 percent clean power nationwide? Our paper with NRDC lays out how the United States can achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 by moving swiftly on executive actions, implementation of the IRA, and state policy. Download it now