Walz signs energy permit reform law in ceremony near Dexter – Austin Daily Herald

Walz signs energy permit reform bill at ceremony near Dexter

Published at 4:50 p.m. on Thursday, June 27, 2024

With wind turbines in the background, Gov. Tim Walz held a signing ceremony Thursday at a wind farm just outside Dexter for legislation that will reform the state's permitting process and, in turn, speed up construction of clean energy projects in Minnesota.

The bill passed last legislative session and includes reforms that could cut the permitting process by nine to 12 months, streamlining the entire process as the state pursues its goal of net-zero emissions by 2040.

“This signing is important, I think, for a lot of reasons,” Walz said before the signing Thursday. “First, it proves that our system still works. Building coalitions around the toughest problems we face with the best evidence and vision to solve those problems.

The legislation creates two separate review processes that supporters say will speed up a process that many say would move steel forward more quickly.

The first is a standard review for small wind and solar projects and power lines and a more in-depth review for larger projects including transmission lines and major power plants.

The legislation also changes the rules governing certificates of necessity and location and route permits for large power plants and high-voltage transmission lines.

Along the way, the legislation removes barriers for renewable energy developers.

“This is a big step toward our energy future,” Walz said after signing the law.

Walz said there has been a lot of discussion across the country about modernizing permitting while maintaining a process that doesn't skimp on the environment or safety.

The need to speed up the process was also felt within the Public Utilities Commission, which manages permitting in the state for these types of projects.

“What we knew at the PUC was that it was taking too long to build transmission lines,” said PUC Chair Katie Sieben. “It was taking too long to build new solar and it was taking too long to build wind turbines. The commission thought we needed to do better. We needed to streamline the process.”

House Majority Leader and sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jamie Long, said the legislation could shave 18 months off new project construction, while Sen. Nick Frentz celebrated the job growth expected to follow .

“For the men and women who build, operate and maintain the facilities, these are jobs,” Frentz said, emphasizing the power of partnership. “We’re going to make more progress if we have a partnership. We can’t achieve our clean energy goals if we try to impose an idea on someone else.”

Thursday's signing comes just two weeks after a celebration marking the near-complete completion of a solar farm near Adams, another local clean energy project in which Xcel Energy is a partner.

At Thursday's event, Ryan Long, president of Xcel Energy Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, explained how this legislation will not only advance Minnesota's clean energy goals, but also the state's own goals. company to be carbon-free by 2040 – a goal that Xcel has brought forward 10 years from its original 2050 goal.

“From our perspective, we are 67% carbon-free today,” he said. “We are surrounded by 600 MW of wind turbines in this farm and in several farms in this region, which really gives us the wind in our sails as we look to reach 100%.

“With the reform bill, we believe we can get additional certainty, we can achieve our targets more quickly, we can move more quickly to get the much-needed transmission infrastructure that is going to unlock renewable energy in our region for achieve our ultimate goal of 100% by 2040,” he added.

It was also emphasized that this will not only apply to clean energy permitting reform. Several leaders said Thursday that this should also open up opportunities in other areas.

“We hope to see the same type of progress in other areas of permitting,” Frentz said. “Minnesota hopes to make progress and to do that, we’re going to have to work together.”

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