FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org, 312-251-1680 x119
Click here to view poll results: http://sc.org/MNPowerPoll
New Poll Finds Minnesota Power Customers Overwhelmingly Support Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency, Shift Away From Fossil Fuels in Minnesota
As Minnesota Power Sets Its Long-Term Energy Plan, More than 8-in-10 Customers Say “We Need to Fundamentally Change the Way We Get Our Energy”
SAINT PAUL – A new poll released today by Peak Campaigns shows that voters in the Minnesota Power service area overwhelmingly favor using clean, renewable energy sources to power the state. The poll comes out as Minnesota’s long-term energy plan – otherwise known as its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – is under review by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. As the utility plans the next 15 years of its energy mix, more than 8-in-10 voters agreed with the statement that “we need to fundamentally change the way we get our energy in Minnesota by modernizing the electric grid to maximize energy efficiency and wind and solar energy use.” The telephone poll reached 401 voters in the Minnesota Power service area between April 6 and 9, 2013.
“The results of this poll show that Minnesota Power customers support innovation, conservation and health when it comes to energy,” said Jessica Tritsch, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign. “As Minnesota Power stays reliant on coal and other fossil fuels, the volatility and increasing costs of these fuel sources will ultimately fall to the utility’s customers, who are overwhelmingly in favor of clean energy development. As the Public Utilities Commission considers Minnesota Power’s long-term energy plan, the utility must be held accountable for the money they will pour into expensive retrofits and continued dependence on coal.”
In February, Minnesota Power announced that it will stop burning coal in one unit at its Taconite Harbor plant, and convert units at its Syl Laskin coal plant to burn natural gas in the next few years. Rather than phasing out coal at unit 4 at its Boswell plant, the utility announced plans to invest more than $350 million to retrofit a unit at the plant to comply with modern pollution standards.
According to the poll, three-in-four voters agree that “Minnesota utilities should reduce our need for coal and other fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and using more clean, renewable energy.” Almost eight in ten voters (79 percent) support phasing out Minnesota’s oldest coal-burning power plants and replacing them with greater use of clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“This poll gave a very clear indication that Minnesota Power customers are aware of the health costs of coal and concerned about how Minnesota’s current energy mix is going to affect future generations,” said Mark Mehringer, President of Peak Campaigns. “More than two-thirds of voters polled reported that they are concerned about the health risks posed by soot, smog, mercury and other pollution from Minnesota Power’s coal-fired power plants. A strong majority of voters – 61 percent – are concerned about climate change.”
Aside from popular support for phasing out coal-fired power plants, the poll also found that voters in the Minnesota Power service area were in favor of setting clean energy goals and undertaking large-scale efficiency efforts to conserve energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. An overwhelming majority (76 percent) support ensuring that electric utilities in Minnesota get at least 10 percent of their electricity from solar power by the year 2030.
“Despite cold temperatures, Minnesota has lots of solar energy potential,” said John Doberstein, Duluth Resident and Minnesota Power Customer. “The solar industry is creating good, local jobs in Minnesota. And, Minnesota Power customers support investments in solar potential.”
Heavy industrial users like paper mills, factories and mines account for 70 percent of Minnesota Power’s demand. An overwhelming majority of voters polled in the Minnesota Power service area – 74 percent – support Minnesota’s largest energy users setting a goal of using 20 percent less energy by 2020 by eliminating energy waste. Eight in ten voters (83 percent) polled also support incentives for Minnesota’s largest energy users to become more energy efficient.
“Years of research and program experience shows that energy efficiency is the least-cost utility resource,” said Nate Aden, Industrial Energy Efficiency Expert and Research Fellow with the World Resources Institute. “Energy efficiency lowers utility capacity requirements and mitigates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing delivered energy use. The overwhelming support for energy efficiency demonstrated by this poll is an instance of Minnesota residential customers’ preferences aligning with the interests of society and the environment.”
To view full poll results, please click here: http://sc.org/MNPowerPoll