McClatchy News Service in Duluth News-Tribune

DULUTH -- On the heels of President Barack Obama signing the economic stimulus bill this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stopped by Minnesota Power on Thursday morning to trumpet all the new money that should help spur investment in renewable energy.

"I know you thought I would be coming with a $100 million check," joked Klobuchar. While she didn't have the money on hand, she did remind everyone that $43 billion was in the stimulus package for renewable energy efforts. In addition, she said there would be $111 billion available for infrastructure and science-related research, which could also pay for research and development into more renewable resources.

The government is estimating the stimulus bill will save or create 66,000 jobs in Minnesota over the next two years as well.

Klobuchar's enthusiasm for this infusion of cash for renewable energy was shared by Minnesota Power officials at the morning gathering, but tempered slightly.

David McMillan, executive vice president of Minnesota Power, said while his company is definitely moving toward providing more renewable energy options -- and says its on track to meet its goal of producing 25 percent of its energy through renewable resources by 2025 -- he reminded her that the company needed to figure out ways to make the transition to renewable resources profitably.

"We are bullish on our renewable future," McMillan said, but the switch has to be cost effective. "Don't box us in as far as how, when and where," he said.

For example, he said, Minnesota Power is working to take wind energy from North Dakota, instead of trying primarily relying on building wind turbines in Minnesota, since the company believes wind is more readily available there and therefore cheaper to sell.

Klobuchar concurred, saying her goal is for the government to set standards, but leave it to private companies to figure out how best to meet those goals.