Nearly 80% of Minnesotans want transmission built on existing rights-of-way
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MINNEAPOLIS – February 6, 2024 – NextGen Highways announced today the launch in Minnesota of its first state coalition to promote the co-location of utility and telecommunication infrastructure in existing corridors, like highways and interstates, to speed development critical for the clean energy transition.
“States govern millions of miles of valuable public right-of-way (ROW), and these roads and highways present an immense opportunity to accelerate the infrastructure development necessary for a carbon-free and electrified energy economy,” said Randy Satterfield, Executive Director of NextGen Highways. “Taking action at the state level to remove policy barriers to co-locating electric and telecommunications infrastructure with these ROWs is a key objective for the Minnesota NextGen Highways Coalition.”
NextGen Highways has developed a diverse national coalition advancing the concept with policy makers and others and is now building state-level coalitions. The coalitions will advocate for existing public ROWs to be considered for new electric transmission infrastructure to meet the growing demand from decarbonization policies, electric vehicles and building electrification. Part of that effort includes identifying barriers to co-location and strategies to overcome those barriers.
“Minnesota is a natural state to kick off this coalition work because it is already leading the way on clean energy, from its ambitious state policy goals to the development of clean energy facilities and the transmission lines needed to connect them to the grid,” said Satterfield. “Minnesotans want these common-sense solutions. Public opinion research in the state shows nearly 80% of Minnesotans prefer building electric transmission lines alongside existing infrastructure and public ROW corridors.”
The Minnesota NextGen Highways Coalition’s policy goals include formalizing state policy around transmission siting prioritization, clarifying the statute on utility re-location costs, and modernizing Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) policy to allow utility installations to run parallel to state-controlled access and interstate highways. Coalition members view these changes as essential to achieving the state’s current and future energy needs.
“Transmission congestion and the long lag time it takes to permit and site new transmission is the biggest barrier to Minnesota achieving our 100% clean energy standard by 2040,” said George Damian, Clean Energy Economy Minnesota Director of Government Affairs. “The NextGen Highways Coalition is committed to advancing the clean energy transition by utilizing the right of ways already owned by the state. This is a simple fix that has been in place in Wisconsin for years without incident and is something that will benefit our clean energy business community.”
Minnesota is a key state for kicking off this work as NextGen Highways worked with MnDOT for more than two years examining the NextGen Highways concept. In Spring 2022, NextGen Highways published a feasibility report conducted with MnDOT. MnDOT has laid the foundation for success through its work with NextGen Highways and other stakeholders. The Minnesota NextGen Highways Coalition will follow that work by engaging stakeholders to identify and implement policy changes to allow for co-location in interstate highway ROW corridors.
The coalition launches with eight initial members representing clean energy advocates, labor unions, trade groups, and environmental advocates. Organizations seeking to join this important coalition can visit https://nextgenhighways.org/ to learn more and inquire.
Minnesota NextGen Highways Coalition members:
- Center for Rural Affairs
- Clean Energy Economy Minnesota
- Conservative Energy Forum
- Fresh Energy
- Laborers’ International Union of North America – Minnesota and North Dakota
- Mechanical Contractors Association
- Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
- National Audubon Society
About NextGen Highways
NextGen Highways is a collaborative initiative promoting the use of highways and other existing rights-of-way as infrastructure corridors where electric and communications infrastructure are strategically and safely co-located in existing highway rights-of-way. NextGen Highways is convened by the Great Plains Institute. Learn more at NextGenHighways.org.
Quotes from members:
National Audubon Society
“Audubon’s Birds and Transmission report shows that building transmission on existing rights-of-way is a key opportunity to reduce risks to birds that are vulnerable to collision or habitat impacts,” said Lindsay J. Brice, policy director for Audubon Upper Mississippi River. “We are proud to be part of this NextGen Highways Coalition in advancing the clean energy transition while ensuring that Minnesota’s birds and communities benefit from responsibly sited transmission.”
“As Minnesota works to achieve the state’s carbon free electricity standard and economy-wide decarbonization goals, transmission capacity will become ever-more crucial as the foundation of a reliable, affordable electric system. Opening up the potential for siting transmission in highway rights-of-way is a practical step to improve efficiency and limit siting impacts on local communities,” says Rachel Wiedewitsch, Senior Policy Associate at Fresh Energy. “Fresh Energy is pleased to work with partners in the NextGen Highways Coalition to advance this effort.”