Energy and Telecommunications
Minnesota’s energy policies have led our state to become a national leader in the development of clean energy, with many companies growing and expanding here while contributing to our strong energy economy. The growth of significant solar and wind industries here is a great success story – good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for the environment. Solar production has vastly increased, especially as community and large solar installations have begun operating in the state over the last couple of years.
The final energy bill that passed does not include VoIP provisions, pipeline provisions, clean air act settlement (VW) language, direction to the PUC to rule in favor of economic growth and retention, internet privacy provisions, or language that caps Xcel Energy nuclear waste cask payments.
Renewable Development Fund Replaced
The bill eliminates the Renewable Development Fund (RDF) and creates a new Renewable Development Account to recommend appropriations to the Legislature.
Made in Minnesota
The bill eliminates the Made in Minnesota program and limits incentive payments to owners whose applications were approved prior to May 1, 2017. The bill also extends the Solar Rewards production incentive program for three years.
Municipal and cooperative utilities
The bill includes provisions calling for municipal and cooperative electric utilities to provide for a process to resolve disputes that includes mediation by an independent third party. When this becomes effective, pending proceedings at the PUC are terminated, with exceptions. This language was vetoed as a stand-alone bill, and as part of the jobs and energy omnibus bill. New language was added stating that qualifying facilities over 20 MW may, until December 31, 2022, request that the PUC resolve a dispute with any utility, including a cooperative or municipal utility.
The bill suspends the Residential PACE Program and establishes a Residential PACE Consumer Protection Legislation Task Force to develop recommendations for consumer protection legislation, with a report to the legislature. The residential PACE program cannot be operated until legislation is enacted establishing consumer protections.
The bill makes changes to the biomass fuel mandate, allowing a pathway for a new or amended power purchase agreement, early termination of a power purchase agreement, or purchase and closure of a facility.
Small electric cooperatives and municipals are made exempt from the state’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) requirements.
Small Wireless Facilities
New language creates a framework for the placement, or “co-location”, of small wireless facilities on support structures owned by local units of government.
Xcel Energy is allowed to construct, own, and operate a natural gas-fired electric power plant at the site of the current Sherco coal-fired plants. In 2016, the Public Utilities Commission authorized Xcel to close two of its three coal-fired plants in 2023 and 2026. This legislation allows Xcel Energy to bypass the PUC’s certificate of need process, allowing the natural gas plant to be built more quickly. Governor Dayton supported the legislation, arguing that the importance this project holds for Becker, the surrounding area, and the state requires certainty that the protracted PUC process cannot provide. (HF 113)
Energy and Telecommunications Bills that Did Not Become Law
VETOED: Energy Budget
The bill included deregulation of local phone service if it was provided by Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Internet protocol-enabled service.
Renewable Development Fund
This bill eliminated the Renewable Development Fund (RDF) and created a new Clean Energy Advancement Fund (C-LEAF) to recommend appropriations to the Legislature for expenditures.
Made in MN
The vetoed bill eliminated the Made in Minnesota solar incentive program.
The bill suspended the Residential PACE Program and established a Residential PACE Consumer Protection Legislation Task Force to develop recommendations for consumer protection legislation with a report to the Legislature. The residential PACE program cannot be operated until legislation is enacted establishing consumer protections.
Clean Air Act Settlement
This bill specified that Clean Air Act settlement funds may not be spent until specifically appropriated by law.
The vetoed bill included provisions calling for cooperative electric associations to adopt rules to provide for a process to resolve disputes that includes mediation by an independent third party. Proceedings pending at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) when this would become effective are terminated, with exceptions (as passed in the Senate).
PUC Rulings and Job Retention
This bill required resource planning at the PUC to rule in favor of economic growth and job retention.
The bill made changes to the biomass fuel mandate, allowing a pathway for a new or amended power purchase agreement, early termination of a power purchase agreement, or purchase and closure of a facility.
This bill exempted oil and gas pipelines from certificate of need requirements and restricted alternative pipeline routing options that can be made as part of an environmental assessment.