Op-ed: State needs diverse power sources

Posted December 9, 2014

As published in St. Cloud Times – 12/06/2014

With Minnesota focused on diversifying energy sources, especially renewables, coalition forms to make sure lignite coal stays part of energy-producing equation

Mike Beard - web Roger Moe - web
Mike Beard Roger Moe

Minnesota is right to take conservation and environmental stewardship seriously. We dream of a future in which our children hunt, fish and enjoy an environment that is even cleaner than the one we enjoy today.

But when looking to the future, we can’t forget about the present. The diverse set of energy resources we use includes intermittent resources like wind and solar, as well as sources of always on, reliable power such as coal, nuclear, biomass and hydropower.

To help ensure we continue to have a reliable source of electricity in Minnesota and throughout our region, we recently signed on as the honorary co-chairs of the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future, an organization that advocates for preserving a balanced, all-of-the-above approach to electricity that includes traditional sources like coal-based power plants in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

Lignite is a grade of coal that might not sound familiar, but the electricity North Dakota lignite generates is regularly transmitted to us in Minnesota.

Lignite is different from the coal found in the Appalachian regions of the eastern United States, or other coals that must be shipped long distances by train. Because it is mined at the surface, rather than underground, lignite coal mining is safer than other heavy industries such as construction and manufacturing. It is also consumed at power plants adjacent to the mines, which virtually eliminates costly transportation charges and the need to burn diesel to transport coal.

The regional coal industry takes great pride in its ability to generate this low-cost source of electricity while simultaneously reducing emissions. In fact, North Dakota, with its eight coal plants and Minnesota, with its 11 coal plants, enjoy great marks from the American Lung Association. This prime ALA rating should serve as a reminder that electricity from coal can be economically beneficial and environmentally sound.

As members of the new Coalition for a Secure Energy Future and former members of the Minnesota Legislature, where we crafted energy policy, we are eager to explain to the rest of the state and region why coal is crucial to maintaining affordable electricity, and how removing it from our state’s energy equation would harm Minnesota’s economic prosperity.

Not long ago, Minnesota had double-digit unemployment. When a job is lost, energy for home heating and cooling can be among the first expenses to be cut, especially among low-income citizens. We all know how daunting Minnesota’s frigid winters and hot summers can be. That’s why we are speaking out now about the importance of retaining an all-of-the-above mix of electricity sources, including coal.

The Coalition for a Secure Energy Future is a nonpartisan group comprised of Democrats and Republicans with members from the manufacturing and small business sectors. We will not have a lobbying presence at the Legislature. We simply want to preserve this vital energy source that’s served our communities well for decades.

Roger Moe is a former DFL state senator and majority leader from Erskine and served from 1971 until 2002. Mike Beard is a Republican state representative from Shakopee serving from 2002 until announcing his retirement this year. Moe and Beard serve as co-chairs for the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future.

You can view the story on the SCTimes website here