ENERGY

Provisions passed

Renewable Development Account – clean energy projects

A Senate-House compromise agreement was reached on financing renewable energy development projects from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Account, allowing four energy projects to go forward:

  • $46.2 million, spread over three years, will allow the Prairie Island Indian Community to become a “net-zero energy community.” The intent is to develop an energy system that implements renewable energy projects that result in net zero carbon emissions. Of that amount, $16 million will move from the fund this year
  • $10 million goes to Solar Rewards, the solar incentive program administered by Xcel Energy that offers discounts to Minnesotans who install rooftop solar panels. The program and funding are extended to 2022
  • $2.8 million is for a new turbine to expand Granite Falls’ hydroelectric generating facility
  • $2 million in grants will help communities that lose an electric generating facility through a new Host Community Grant Program. Grants must be spent in communities in Xcel Energy’s electric service area or in communities that host an Xcel electric generating plant. These funds will help communities deal with the economic costs of losing large coal, nuclear, or natural gas plants as utilities shift toward building renewable power

The Renewable Development Account dates to 1994, when Xcel Energy was given permission to store nuclear waste adjacent to land owned by the Prairie Island Indian Community. The fund is made up of annual fees paid by Xcel Energy to store nuclear waste at its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power facilities and is earmarked for renewable energy development grants. (HF 1842)

Provisions not passed

Clean Energy ActThis legislation would move Minnesota toward “clean energy first” by strengthening the state’s preference for carbon-free and renewable energy when utility companies need to replace or increase power. Most people support the concept of looking first to clean energy resources before adding fossil fuel power generation, and there was substantial support for many of the provisions in this bill.Nevertheless, several concerns were raised about the Senate version of the bill, including what some felt was a too-broad list of what could be counted as “carbon-free” energy that included nuclear power, garbage burning, carbon capture, and others. This bill’s advocates have worked on this legislation for more than a year, and it is widely expected to be back in a future legislative session. (SF 1456)

Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act  

This bill would encourage the use of less energy and save Minnesotans money, while bringing the largest update to Minnesota’s energy conservation program since 2007. The Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act seeks to gain cost-efficient energy savings for utilities that operate within Minnesota.

The bill requires most utilities to raise the percentage of their operating revenues that must be devoted to energy savings and mandates a move toward innovative clean technologies in energy production, setting criteria for utility load management and efficient switching between fuel sources. It broadens the ways energy conservation programs can be used to aid low-income households and establishes an asbestos-removal account in the state treasury, among other things. This proposal will re-surface in a future legislative session. (HF 4502)

Natural gas innovationThis bill is initiated by Centerpoint Energy and seeks to promote innovative clean energy resources and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance clean energy. It would establish a state regulatory policy that allows a natural gas utility to add alternative fuels, such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen gas, to its distribution system. It would allow a utility to deploy new energy-efficiency and carbon-capture technologies to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas use. Continued discussions are likely. (SF 3013)

First special session update

Non-COVID provisions not passed

Electric Cogeneration Power Purchase Agreement — This proposal is a joint effort by District Energy St. Paul and Xcel Energy to establish a unique pilot for St. Paul’s downtown business district and the state capitol complex. The aim is to decarbonize heating and cooling and to help deal with waste from the state’s emerald ash borer infestation. The bill establishes a planning process for a power purchase agreement and electrification project proposal as a potential “next step” for District Energy St. Paul and Xcel Energy. The current agreement between Xcel Energy and St. Paul Cogeneration (the district energy affiliate that Xcel Energy buys its biomass energy from) is scheduled to expire in 2023. (SS SF 19)

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