Minnesota increases renewable energy sources target

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Minnesota pushed ahead of other U.S. states seeking to combat climate change by enacting a requirement on Thursday that 25 percent of the state’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2025.

Minnesota is among several states from California to Maine demanding greater use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass, and for caps on emissions that cause global warming.

The Bush administration has opposed emissions caps while backing alternatives to fossil fuels such as ethanol. There no federal laws setting alternative-fuel standards.

“States are leapfrogging each other ... in the absence of a federal policy,” said Jeff Deyette of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Energy Program.

Minnesota had previously set an objective of having power suppliers derive 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015. As of 2004, the state got 8 percent of its power from renewable sources.

Xcel Energy, which produces half the state’s power, had its own goal of 19 percent renewable sources and had reached 10 percent, mostly with wind-generated power. Xcel’s new target for renewable sources was set at 30 percent by 2025.

“Today, we are leading the nation on the path to a better, cleaner, more independent energy future,” said Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who signed legislation on Thursday setting the new state standard.

Minnesota is the 21st most-populous U.S. state, with about 5 million people.

“This is a solid target, and it’s achievable,” the Sierra Club’s Josh Davis said. A big hurdle is limited U.S. capacity to build the thousands of wind turbines needed, he said.

The state will rely on wind power to meet most of the requirement, with solar power and cellulosic ethanol from prairie grass also potential sources, he said.

The legislature is weighing three more proposals on new standards for heating and cooling buildings, vehicle gas mileage, and greenhouse-gas emissions, Davis said.

“It will transform the economy,” he said.

California, the most populous U.S. state, has required that 20 percent of its power by 2010 come from renewable sources. California has also called for cuts in carbon levels and industrial emissions as well as pushed for a low-carbon fuel standard that would have the effect of taking three million cars off the road.

Several U.S. states concentrated in the West, Midwest, and Northeast have enacted or formally proposed long-term requirements using more renewable energy sources. Among European countries such goals are commonplace.

U.S. proposals to cap emissions and boost use of renewable sources are gaining traction in the U.S. Congress after failing in previous years, Deyette said.