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A child born in 2023 will graduate from a Minnesota high school in a state powered entirely by clean electricity. How is this possible? Over the past four years, a diverse coalition — from labor and business to faith and justice, from utilities and advocates to fired-up youth and those on the front lines — came together around a shared cause. Doing it the Minnesota Way, these leaders set aside differences to keep the North cold and commit our state to 100% clean electricity by 2040, protecting the place we call home against the changing climate and growing our state economy for current and future generations.
With Minnesota's commitment, a majority of Americans now live in states working toward 100% clean energy. Here in Minnesota, renewable energy already creates nearly a third of all electricity, and communities — from Mountain Iron to Minneapolis, Becker to Fergus Falls, Worthington to St. Cloud and Red Lake to Rochester — are a big part of the clean energy economy, which provides 60,000 good-paying jobs.
What does the new law mean for Minnesotans? It means even more excellent jobs and thriving clean energy businesses, reduced energy costs for our residents and significantly less pollution to combat climate change. As place-based funders rooted deeply in our communities, we are pleased to see measures included in the law — from hiring practices to energy affordability — that advance equity.
As we celebrate the tireless efforts of advocates and community members that achieved this victory, we know the real work lies ahead, particularly to ensure that all Minnesotans, especially those most impacted, are included in and benefit from the transformation of our economy to create a more just and abundant future where all can thrive.
What and how we build will have consequences that last generations. Utilities and local and state leaders have an opportunity to center equity on our path to 100% clean energy, especially as federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act begins to flow, by ensuring that the people most affected by pollution and climate impacts are involved in shaping the way forward and truly benefit from the solutions. The Justice40 initiative should be a guide, and we can also look to our Midwest neighbors for examples.
Illinois is investing deeply in equitable career pathways and investing significant dollars to expand clean energy in underinvested communities. In particular, the state is creating targeted workforce development programs to train jobseekers for in-demand careers and providing support for disadvantaged contractors to participate in the clean energy economy. Illinois and other Midwest states have established "green banks" to finance clean energy projects, too.
Green banks — financial institutions that lend money to homeowners and businesses for energy-saving and clean energy projects — have been growing across the country. They have the power to combine private investment with public funding to offer long-term, low-interest financing, often with a focus on under-resourced communities who have the greatest need for energy upgrades and the least access to affordable financing. With the creation of the $27 billion federal Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund through the Inflation Reduction Act — which will primarily resource green banks within the next year — states now have even more reasons to establish one.
Another effort to make capital flow faster and differently to those who have too long been denied access is underway in Minnesota. The Groundbreak Coalition, a group of over 40 corporate, civic and philanthropic leaders, aims to close our state's longstanding racial wealth gaps by boosting homeownership, rental housing, commercial development and BIPOC entrepreneurship, first in the Twin Cities and then across the state — all with an emphasis on aligning capital with our climate goals.
Going forward, we should be laser focused on equitable implementation of Minnesota's 100% clean electricity law, while building the equity-focused elements the law missed. We must also find opportunities to reduce climate pollution in other sectors like transportation and agriculture that have a huge impact on health.
If we do this right, other states will be emulating the "Minnesota Way" for delivering economic mobility and community vitality in the transition to clean energy and climate resilience — a model our nation desperately needs and that future generations deserve.
Tonya Allen is president of the McKnight Foundation. Lori Kuhn is executive director of the Morgan Family Foundation. Anna Wasescha is president of the West Central Initiative Foundation.