Minnesota set to reform energy infrastructure permitting process

Published on May 22, 2024 by Chris Galford

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A package of permitting reforms – the Minnesota Energy Infrastructure Permitting Act – passed the Minnesota legislature this week, with promises to update the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) approval process.

If signed off by Gov. Tim Walz, the legislation create clearer timelines and insists on consistency for each stage of permit review, require state agencies to coordinate to better deal with problems early in the process, streamline the application acceptance process by allowing PUC staff to review these applications rather than needing the full PUC, and eliminate a requirement to study alternative sites and routes not proposed for various projects.

“The Energy Infrastructure Permitting Act will be critical to meeting Minnesota’s goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040,” Erika Kowall, director of Midwest State Affairs for American Clean Power Association (ACP), said. “Minnesota already ranks tenth in the nation for clean energy production, and Governor Walz’s leadership on this issue will deliver real value to Minnesotans moving forward. ACP looks forward to continuing to work with Minnesota leaders to help unleash the state’s full clean energy potential.”

Last year, the state passed a law requiring its utilities to generate or procure 100 percent of retail sales for public utilities from carbon-free resources by 2040. Of these, 55 percent will need to be renewable sources, not merely carbon-free, by 2035. Earlier this year, the Minnesota House noted that approximately 51 percent of Minnesota’s electricity came from carbon-free sources, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear.

Before this legislation, Minnesota utilized a 50-year-old permitting process that advocates claimed was out of alignment with current needs and challenges, and bogging projects down further over time.