A Minnesota Power plan to supply customers with 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050 has been approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC).
Minnesota Power plans included ceasing coal-fired operations at the company’s Boswell Energy Center Unit 3 by 2030 and Boswell Unit 4 by 2035.
The two electrical generating units in Cohasset together produce about 900 megawatts of electricity and help supply some of Minnesota Power’s largest industrial customers, including northeastern Minnesota taconite plants.
Minnesota Power in early 2025 within its next resource plan will more fully identify energy replacement plans at Boswell Energy Center, Julie Pierce, Minnesota Power vice president strategy and planning said.
“We will be looking at all options and we’re very focused on how we can utilize the infrastructure at the Boswell facility, in the city of Cohasset, the surrounding area, and ensure that infrastructure will be utilized in the replacement plan,” Pierce said.
The 2025 plan will ensure that Minnesota Power continues to provide reliable power to taconite plants, Pierce said.
“That’s our responsibility, Pierce said. “That’s something that we take very seriously along with all of the customers we serve in northeastern Minnesota. We live and breathe reliable power and that is what we are designing the grid for. That is our main focus as we go forward and look at opportunities and options. We will not bring forward a plan and we will fight hard against any plan that jeopardizes that reliability.”
The MPUC on Thursday unanimously approved a Minnesota Power Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed with the MPUC in 2021.
The IRP calls for significant increases in wind energy and solar energy production.
In the plan, Minnesota Power is seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2035, achieve more than 70 percent renewable energy in 2030, add up to 400 megawatts of wind energy, 300 watts of regional renewable solar energy, and make a significant investment in energy storage.
The wind and solar goals would be almost double what Minnesota Power proposed in the initial IRP filed last year.
A number of stakeholders include Fresh Energy, Sierra Club, Clean Grid Alliance, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, city of Cohasset, Itasca Economic Development Corp., International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 31, Laborers International Union of North America in Minnesota and North Dakota, and North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, reached a joint agreement with Minnesota Power on the overall plan.
“In early 2021, Minnesota Power set forth its vision for a carbon-free energy supply by 2050, and today’s decision by the Commission affirmed Minnesota Power’s state-leading efforts to shape a clean-energy future that benefits our customers, our communities, and the climate while ensuring time to transition our employees,” Bethany Owen, ALLETE, Inc. chair, president and chief executive officer said in a new release. “Bringing all these important stakeholders together has been a hallmark of Minnesota Power’s extensive process and is critical to a truly just transition that leaves no one behind. We’re grateful for the Commission’s approval and excited to get to work on this next phase of our collaborative and innovative energy transformation.”
About 200 are currently employed at Boswell Energy Center, according to Minnesota Power.
Electricity produced by Minnesota Power is already about 50 percent renewable.
That means northeastern Minnesota taconite plants are operating on about 50 percent renewable power.
The taconite plants require about 650 megawatts of electricity to operate at any given moment.
Minnesota Power is a utility division of ALLETE.