climate solutions and economic opportunities stakeholder engagement process: Policy Options Under Examination

The Climate Solutions and Economic Opportunities (CSEO) analysis was part of an evaluation of policy options from across Minnesota’s economic sectors for their potential to grow our economy and to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Some of the strategies that were analyzed are in statute or are taken from publicly vetted state agency plans. However, some of the options had not had previous examination and the analysis aims to provide more information that will inform ongoing discussions.

Not all of the policy options analyzed will be proposed or implemented, but the analysis, along with associated stakeholder input, will inform policy makers with timely and relevant information.

You can learn more about the selection, design, and principles for quantification of policy options in a technical memo from the Center for Climate Strategies, who performed the analysis. You can also access a copy of the presentation on the analysis and initial results.

Links to more detailed descriptions of each policy option will be added as they become available. Policy options were categorized based on impacted economic sector:

Energy Supply

Increase the Renewable Energy Standard (PDF) »

Legislation passed in 2013 required an investigation into the impacts of and enhancements necessary to support higher levels of renewable energy use in Minnesota, starting with increasing the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to 40 percent by 2030, and to higher proportions thereafter (MN Laws 2013, Chapter 85 HF 729, Article 12, Sections 1, 4, and 7). State legislation also sets the goal that by 2030, ten percent  (10%) of the retail electric sales in Minnesota be generated by solar energy (MN Stat. §216B.1691). 

Efficiency Improvements, Repowering, Retirement, and Upgrades to Existing Coal-Fired Power Plants (PDF) »

Of the 24 utility-owned coal-fired boilers operating in Minnesota, most have been retrofitted to meet Clean Air Act requirements (1758 MWs), repowered with natural gas (776 MWs), or retired or scheduled for retirement by 2020 (734 MWs). The objective of this policy is to establish coal-fired boiler repowering or retirement options for the largest CO2-emitting electric generating units in Minnesota.

Demand Side Energy Efficiency In Homes, COmmercial Buildings, and Industrial Activities

Incentives and Resources to Promote Combined Heat and Power (Biomass and Natural Gas) (PDF) »

Combined heat and power (CHP) systems reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by recovering heat that is normally wasted in the power production process. This policy option would leverage existing regulatory frameworks and develop new standards to be included in existing policies.

Zero Energy Ready (Known as “Green Building Guidelines” in 2008) (PDF) »

Operating and maintaining buildings involves the consumption of large amounts of energy. The objective of this policy is to provide a timeline, with multiple requirements, that would get all Minnesota buildings to net zero energy use by 2030. Policy elements include early compliance with SB2030 for all new or renovated public facilities; the development of appendix building code chapters, consistent with SB2030 guidelines, that can be adopted by local jurisdictions for all buildings within their limits; and incentives and education for private sector building owners to comply early with SB2030.

Increase the Energy Efficiency Requirement (PDF) »

The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 established an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard through the existing Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) for electric and natural gas utilities in Minnesota, including investor-owned utilities, electric cooperatives, and municipal utilities (see Minn. Stat. §216B.241 subd 1c.). The objective of this policy option is to increase those natural gas and electric utility efficiency requirements.

Incentives and Resources to Promote Thermal Renewables (PDF) »

Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard has played a critical role in driving renewable electricity deployment over the past several years. However, this standard only addresses electricity. Significant opportunity exists to transition heating load to include in-state renewable energy resources, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The objective of this policy option is to set a statewide goal for implementation of thermal renewable technologies in order to promote adequate and diverse thermal energy supplies, at a reasonable cost, with minimal impact on the environment. Co-benefits of this policy option include increased energy security and affordable energy access for Minnesotans.


Nutrient Management in Agriculture (PDF) »

Nitrogen is essential for plant growth. However, due to its mobility in the environment, it contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere primarily in the form of nitrous oxide. This policy option addresses organic and inorganic nitrogen through nitrogen fertilizer management.

Soil Carbon Management in Agriculture (PDF) »

Soils can both store and release carbon, depending upon natural conditions and soil management practices. This policy option would support implementation of practices to enhance the storage of carbon in agricultural soils through the use of cover crops and legumes/hayland.

Advanced Biofuel Production/Existing Biofuel Statute (PDF) »

This policy option includes actions to incentivize the production of advanced biofuels and their use within the state, which goes towards meeting the liquid petroleum replacement goals in Minn. Stat. 239.7911 (replace gasoline with renewable biofuel in the entire fuel supply: 14% by 2015, 18% by 2017, 25% by 2020, and 30% by 2025). It also seeks to address issues such as federal vehicle fuel economy requirements and infrastructure needs for higher biofuel blends.

Forestry Management

Protect Peatlands (PDF) »

Peatlands store 37 percent of all carbon stored in the state. Warmer, drier conditions and increased fire risk pose a threat to this storage. Although understanding the greenhouse gas dynamics of Minnesota's various wetlands requires additional study, we can limit greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands by restoring hydrological regimes on peatlands that are altered by ditching, draining, or road crossings, and by targeting farmed peatlands for conservation programs.

Forest Thinning for Biomass Production (PDF) »

Minnesota’s public and private forests sequester a significant portion of its CO2 emissions and vast amounts of carbon are stored in forest biomass, soils, and wood products. Minnesota’s forests can also provide a renewable, low-carbon energy source and expand the potential for long-term carbon storage in building products. This policy option would advance these goals and make forest ecosystems more resilient to changes in climate by accelerating pre-commercial and commercial thinning.

Community Forests (PDF) »

Trees in urban and community forests reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing and sequestering carbon and by reducing energy use for heating and cooling. Strengthening tree canopies through planting and ongoing maintenance will provide many environmental and health benefits in addition to climate change mitigation.

Tree Planting: Forest Ecosystems (PDF) »

Landscape-scale disturbances (e.g. windthrows, fires, pest and disease outbreaks that cover tens- to hundreds-of-thousands of acres) are becoming more frequent. Dedicated resources for responding to these disturbances on state, county, and private lands quickly will restore carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services (e.g. water quality maintenance, erosion control) and minimize fire risk and other negative impacts.

Conservation on Private Lands (PDF) »

This policy would use existing easement and restoration programs to maintain and restore permanent vegetative cover. Conservation easements maintain perennial vegetative cover (prairie, wetlands, forest, hay, and pasture), which helps sustain high levels of carbon sequestration. Easements also support restoration efforts re-establish perennial vegetation to increase carbon sequestration. Such efforts would provide many water quality and other co-benefits in addition to climate change mitigation.

Land Use and Transportation

Transportation Pricing (PDF) »

The transportation pricing policy options look at several related policies designed to provide reliable funding for roads and bridges in the state, reduce per capita driving, and encourage the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Improve Land Development and Urban Form (PDF) »

This policy option assumes that three-quarters of new residential development and nonresidential development in the metro region will locate in medium- or high-density areas with compact urban form. This strategy would reduce vehicle miles traveled and resulting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation; lower greenhouse gas emissions through compact building efficiencies; and avoid greenhouse gas emissions by economizing on infrastructure needs (for example, road building). A suite of supporting policies and actions at the state and local levels would maximize the potential of this strategy. The impact of this policy is relatively slow-moving but long-lasting, and carries many co-benefits such as more active living, greater variety of lifestyle choices, and alignment of development with demographic changes.

Draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (Met Council) (PDF) »

The Metropolitan Council is currently updating the region’s long-range transportation plan, known as the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (2040 TPP). This plan is multimodal in character, addressing highway, transit, transitways, pedestrian facilities, bicycle facilities, freight, and aviation. Of the numerous objectives in the plan, those that are particularly relevant to CSEO call for reducing transportation-related air emissions; additional MnPASS managed lanes; additional transitways and arterial bus rapid transit lines; increased use of transit, bicycling, and walking; and increased availability of multimodal travel options.

Electric Vehicles/Zero Emission Vehicle Standard

Electric vehicles have zero emissions from the tailpipe and are four times more energy efficient than gas-powered vehicles. They can be powered by wind or solar and electricity generated off-peak to advance both cleaner transportation and electricity production. Ten states are jointly implementing zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, through the use of sales quotas, in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals by increasing ZEV use. This policy option assumes that Minnesota would join these states in this national regulatory effort to increase use of electric vehicles in place of gas-powered vehicles. 

Waste Management

Waste Water Treatment – Energy Conservation (PDF) »

Publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) plants are among the largest energy consumers in Minnesota. To reduce energy consumption, this policy option would require a 25 percent reduction in energy purchases by 2025. The energy reduction goal would be technology-agnostic and represent composite energy savings for a POTW (or group of POTWs with a single owner). Financial incentives would be available, including but not limited to:

  • Changes to state law and rules related to Public Facilities Authority (PFA)-administered state revolving loan funds and wastewater infrastructure funds,
  • The Minnesota Department of Commerce obtaining federal funding (or state bond funds),
  • Alternative Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) funding being made available to POTWs.

Front-End Waste Management (PDF) »

Using economic, partnership, policy, planning, and regulatory tools, this policy option would bring total recycling rates (that is, separation and utilization of metals, glass, plastic, paper, and food and yard waste) up from the current statewide recycling rate of 50 percent (in 2012) to a 75 percent rate by 2030. Using the same tools listed above, it would also cut average per-capita waste generation by three percent every year after 2020 through reduction and reuse.