A group of utilities, Minnesota regulators and environmental groups say it's possible for electricity generation in the midcontinent to be carbon-free by 2050 with its existing technology.

A group of utilities, Minnesota regulators and environmental groups say it's possible for electricity generation in the midcontinent to be carbon-free by 2050 with its existing technology.

The electricity sector has done better than other parts of the economy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. A recent study by the Great Plains Institute says that of 13 states examined, 77 percent of electricity comes from coal and natural gas.

"Essentially that means more wind, more solar, more energy efficiency," said Franz Litz, a program consultant with the Great Plains Institute.

Litz said it also means that existing nuclear plants, which don't have air emissions, could be an important part in 2050, when the state needs "to be generating our electricity without putting carbon into the air."

The system will probably need to keep using natural gas, only with carbon capture technology, in which waste carbon is stored and prevented from escaping into the atmosphere, according to the report.

"We need that because every resource has different characteristics," Litz said.

James Gignac of the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the groups that participated in the report, said the state shouldn't start building a slew of natural gas plants.

"It's really critical right now that the power companies, utilities and stakeholders take a hard look at the economics of investing in natural gas, especially compared to the cost decline in what we're seeing with renewables and storage," he said.