By MIke Ganz, President of the Central Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Union –
Across our state and even here in Central Minnesota, we are seeing a transition from legacy energy, such as coal power, to clean energy, such as wind, solar and someday, hydrogen power.
As momentum builds for clean energy in our region, I think it’s important for us to understand that someone has to build, maintain and upgrade not only the new clean energy resources, such as wind and solar farms, but existing legacy energy resources including natural gas, coal and nuclear to ensure a smooth transition.
Who are those people? They’re our neighbors. They’re ironworkers, pipefitters, electricians and heavy equipment operators. They’re union construction professionals whose skills and knowledge make it possible for us to turn on the lights in our homes and businesses, keep our mobile phones charged, drink clean water, and drive well-maintained roads.
To be frank, the road to a clean energy future in Minnesota is going to be bumpy. Some construction workers will be very busy in the years to come; others will not. And this will impact everyone, because Minnesota union construction workers with good paying jobs buy stuff from local stores, they pay property taxes, and they volunteer in their local community.
On the other hand, I’m a hunter and angler, and I see a future where clean energy helps to keep our environment cleaner, which means better fishing and hunting.
As I think about the future of energy here in Central Minnesota, I want everyone who’s reading this to understand is three things:
1. We have the talent in Minnesota to build Minnesota’s energy infrastructure;
2. We need a balanced approach that stresses reliability; and
3. We need to get our priorities straight.
Experience and Skills that Count — Thousands of union construction members across our region maintain the safety and efficiency of legacy energy infrastructure. These workers are making family sustaining wages and benefits, which contribute to the economic well-being of Minnesota’s towns and cities. In addition to these jobs, there are thousands of Minnesota construction workers building new types of energy infrastructure today, including wind and solar, and those employed in energy efficiency and electrification. We have the talent to build all of the Minnesota’s energy infrastructure. We should insist that every energy project uses Minnesota home-grown union construction workers.
Energy Balance – When the wind isn’t blowing and when the sun isn’t shining, you’re not making energy. The fact is, we need to use other energy resources such as natural gas and nuclear power to provide the reliability to power our homes and businesses until better technology becomes available. In the meantime, we need to support the development of hydrogen power, and to address carbon emissions, we need to see investments in carbon capture systems.
Get Our Priorities Straight — For construction and energy workers to do their job effectively, efficiently and safely and to make the clean energy transition go as smoothly as possible, Minnesota needs a plan. At the very least, we need a plan for Central Minnesota. That’s because while commitments have been made to reduce carbon emissions, there isn’t a clear, comprehensive road map as to how we’ll actually get there. A better roadmap would help us better train construction workers for whatever the energy of the future will bring.
As our region looks towards its energy future, we need a strong, strategic infrastructure investment plan that will ensure the long-term success for our region. These include:
- Investments in the operations, maintenance and repair of current energy infrastructure in our region.
- Investments in the development and deployment of technologies such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydro-electric, carbon capture and utilization, battery storage and low carbon and electrified transportation.
- Investments to increase energy efficiency in industrial, commercial and residential buildings, to retrofit and update schools and public buildings, and to make our built-environment safe and resilient.
We need our local elected officials to support clean energy legislation that requires Minnesota prevailing wages, apprenticeship training, licensing requirements, labor standards and local hiring to build our region’s clean energy infrastructure, including cleaner burning natural gas and hydrogen. In other words – we need to ensure that workers, families and communities are not left behind in this energy transition.
We are all in this together. We all depend upon reliable energy to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. When you support the use of Minnesota labor building our energy future, you are investing in Minnesota. Now is the time where we must come together to create an energy future where all benefit. Because when you live where you work, your work improves where you live.