Though the Energy committee met consistently throughout the 2022 legislative session, little was accomplished by adjournment. The only standalone bills from the committee that were brought to the floor by Senate Republicans include one bill to provide an extension for a net-zero energy project currently underway by the Prairie Island Indian Community, and another that would create an exception to the moratorium on new nuclear projects for small scale nuclear projects of 100 megawatts or less. The extension for Prairie Island’s net-zero became law early in session, but the exclusion for small scale nuclear did not pass the Legislature.
DID NOT PASS
Omnibus Energy bill
The original energy provisions that were passed out of the Senate included very little to advance clean energy in the state; rather than focusing on investments and policy that would reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector, Senate Republicans instead put forward proposals that would add barriers for new wind and solar energy projects, create a preferential treatment for fossil fuel infrastructure, and repeal the longstanding moratorium on new nuclear projects without providing assurances around affordability and the health and safety of humans and the environment.
In contrast, the governor’s proposed budget would have made significant investments to prepare the state to compete for federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding, help Minnesotans permanently lower their energy bills by adding funding to the state’s weatherization assistance program, and make new investments in the clean energy sector, which would lead to job creation and increase community resiliency to climate-related extreme weather.
The final bill that came out of conference with the House removed the controversial provisions the Senate had originally passed, and DFLers were successful in making several significant gains, including nearly $17 million for weatherization assistance and roughly $20 million for a state competitiveness fund to compete for IIJA funding.
In addition to these investments, a DFL proposal included in the agreement would also require the Department of Commerce to provide technical support to any of the 11 federally recognized Indian tribes in Minnesota that choose to establish a tribal advocacy council on energy upon their request. Another provision in the bill would allow natural gas utilities to issue bonds after extraordinary events in order to spread the cost of such events over a longer period of time; this provision will be critical going forward as extreme weather causes energy costs to rise as was seen during the 2021 February polar vortex, which resulted in high energy bills to consumers. (SF 4091)
100% carbon-free electricity standard by 2040
This change would require all electric utilities to be 100% carbon-free by 2040. It also increases the amount of electricity that a utility must either generate or procure through renewable energy sources. Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Great River Energy (which provide electricity to 80% of Minnesotans) are already on a path to receive carbon-free electricity by 2050. This legislation is considered a top priority among DFLers in the House and Senate as well as for Governor Walz. (SF 643)
Clean Energy First
This proposal creates a preference for renewable energy and carbon-free resources. It defines carbon-free as technology that does not contribute to Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions while the technology is operating. Once in law, utilities will have to prove with clear and convincing evidence that they cannot meet the needs of their customers with renewable or clean energy resources before considering carbon-intensive resources. (HF 10)