A wrap-up of the 2017 Minnesota session

Posted May 30, 2017

The Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill (SF1456) was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton. Each year, the Coalition continues to educate and advocate for an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy.  This year’s energy legislation does quite a bit to ease regulations while also incentivizing new energy programs.

Here are some provisions that were included:

–       Repeal of the portion of the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act that required utilities serving Minnesota to offset the carbon emissions of any new generation imported into the state that uses fossil fuels. Minnesota lost a costly court case with North Dakota over this provision in 2013 when the U.S. District Court ruled it unconstitutional.

 

–       Elimination of the requirement in the Solar Energy Standard (SES). Currently ten percent of the overall 1.5 percent statewide standard must come from small solar installations for Minnesota Power and OtterTail Power. Even with increasingly generous incentives, consumers have yet to opt into such a program.

 

–       Phase-out of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program due to inefficiency.  Xcel Energy’s solar project, Solar Rewards, will see increased funding over the next year.

 

–       Reform of the Renewable Development Fund including the creation of an advisory committee to select projects and final approval to the Legislature. It also requires projects to focus on grid modernization, energy innovation, and consumer education.

 

–       Reformed dispute resolution for electric cooperatives and their members by eliminating costly Public Utilities Commission (PUC) involvement and replacing it with local mediation.

 

–       Exempting small municipal utilities (under 1,000 consumers) and electric cooperatives (under 5,000) from the requirements under the state’s Conservation Improvement Program.

 

–       A requirement that the PUC take into consideration the impact on grid reliability when approving large intermittent generation projects.

 

–       Eliminating the biomass goal requirement for Xcel Energy

 

–       Creation of a goal for rate-making decisions at the Public Utilities Commission to place Minnesota rates five percent below the national average.

 

–       Creation of a task force to look at the state’s PACE program (PACE allows consumers to pay for renewable energy and conservation projects through their property tax bill) to prevent predatory lending and other issues.

 

–       Reform of the selection process the members of the Legislative Energy Commission are chosen, giving the four Legislative Caucus leaders discretion in its membership.