A late start to the session means each step in the legislative process has moved a little quicker this year. Nearly two months have passed since lawmakers returned to the Capitol and we’ve moved through two deadlines for bill introductions and are quickly approaching the deadline for bills with fiscal attachments. But this quick pace hasn’t stopped lawmakers from introducing a wide array of energy bills.
In multiple venues inside and outside of the Capitol, Fresh Energy maintains a laser focus on securing policies that:
- Spur the development of wind and solar energy
- Power more of our economy with clean, local electricity
- Take full advantage of energy efficiency and conservation
Below you’ll find our analysis of bills introduced so far this session—bills we support, oppose, and intend to watch. Make your voice heard on the issues you care about and check back with Fresh Energy for updates on this fast-moving session.
Bills to support (contact your lawmaker to urge support)
SF 3716: This “Clean Energy First” bill would require utilities to file in their integrated resource plans (IRPs) at the Public Utilities Commission a plan to eventually retire and replace nonrenewable resources with renewable energy, energy efficiency, demand response, and energy storage. For nonrenewable resources identified in the plan, utilities must also file proposed community and worker transition plans. This bill would expand upon Minnesota’s existing statute language which places a preference on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
SF 3110 / HF 3473: Fast tracks transmission line projects in excess of 200 kilovolts if all landowners in the proposed right of way are in support. A robust and resilient transmission system is needed in order for us to fully take advantage of our wind and solar resources. This bill helps spur the development of transmission lines that should be least controversial.
SF 3276 / HF 3620: Creates the Office of Enterprise Sustainability within the Department of Administration and establishes goals for state agencies relating to fuel, waste, energy and water consumption, sustainable procurement, and emissions reductions.
SF 3129 / HF 3675: Creates a $4 million pot of bonding funds at the Department of Commerce to be used for grants to school systems who want to procure solar systems (under 300 kilowatts), solar thermal, or energy storage. Half of the funds are designated for the metro area, half are for greater Minnesota.
SF3765 / HF 3977: Designates bee and solar apiary (bee hive) farms as an agricultural use in Minnesota’s metropolitan agricultural preserve program and strengthens the requirements for a solar site claiming to provide habitat beneficial to birds and pollinators. When designed to benefit bees, ground-mounted solar arrays can provide the funding to establish and manage flowering landscapes while also improving agricultural soils and water quality.
SF 2817: Federal appliance and lighting standards are currently scheduled to be updated in 2020. This bill locks in these standards in Minnesota in the event that they are repealed or voided at the federal level.
SF 2962: Similar to last year’s bipartisan proposal (HF1772 / SF1531), this bill builds upon Minnesota’s existing Renewable Energy Standard, which was originally enacted in 2007 with overwhelming bipartisan support. It would require electric utilities to now procure 50 percent of their energy from renewable energy technologies by 2030.
SF 3266 / HF4046: Integrates energy storage into the resource planning process for investor-owned utilities and orders a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of energy storage by the Department of Commerce, including its ability to improve reliability and reduce emissions.
SF 3132 / HF3966: Expands an existing financing tool of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to allow for a greater number of eligible projects. These projects would include: central air conditioner repair, maintenance, or replacement; air source or geothermal heat pump repair, maintenance, or replacement; and on-site solar energy or energy storage systems. Suggests that loans may be integrated into utility on-bill repayment programs.
Bills to oppose (contact your lawmaker with any concerns)
SF 3870 / HF4257: This bill modifies the requirements for Xcel Energy to contribute to the Renewable Development Account (RDA)—effectively cutting RDA funding in half from $32 million per year to $16 million per year. This would significantly decrease the pool of funds used to research and finance innovative renewable energy projects.
SF3400 / HF3792: This bill requires certain wind farms to install aircraft detection lighting systems to avoid aviation collisions with wind turbines. While Fresh Energy supports safety measures in the aviation and wind energy industry, we believe these systems are prohibitively expensive and cheaper, technology-neutral alternatives exist.
SF3872 / HF 3794: Modifies the definition of a large customer facility within the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) from having a peak electrical demand of 20,000 kilowatts to 10,000 kilowatts, or an annual consumption of 500 million to 250 million cubic feet of natural gas. Large energy users are currently allowed to opt out of CIP already and this bill would allow even smaller users to “opt-out,” potentially reducing energy savings statewide, raising costs for consumers, and increasing emissions.
SF3871 / HF 3946: Modifies the small system carve out in the 1.5 percent solar energy standard. Right now, ten percent of the 1.5 percent solar standard must be met with small rooftop systems (>20 kilowatts). This would increase that small system cap to 40 kilowatts and allows for community solar gardens to count as part of that 10 percent while also exempting large energy customers from that calculation—meaning they won’t have to pay for any costs associated with meeting the solar standard. Community solar gardens and rooftop solar help serve two different kinds of solar customers and this bill would short change both of them.
SF 3504 / HF 3708: Allows Xcel Energy to recover an essentially uncapped amount of funds from Minnesota customers to repair their nuclear power plants. This bill would be an incredible gamble for the state of Minnesota. While Fresh Energy believes it is potentially economically and environmentally beneficial to keep Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants open until the end of their federal license, a blank check is not the way to do it. The bill provides no guardrails to ensure these investments are prudent. We support pursuing a comprehensive analysis at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission of what it may take to keep these plants operating another 15 years. Rushing this bill through the legislature undermines the process for a thorough review of costs and benefits.
HF 3003: Allows for large hydro and nuclear energy to count toward the Renewable Energy Standard and changes the name to Carbon Free Standard, effectively repealing what was once nation leading bipartisan energy policy. Discussion of a Carbon Free Standard that allows for a wider set of technologies could make sense, but only if that standard was set at a level that helps Minnesota meet its bipartisan economy-wide emissions reduction goals of 80 percent by 2050.
SF 2516: Turns the technical review for the federal Volkswagen Settlement—currently underway at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency—into a political process by requiring all decisions to flow through the legislature. Fresh Energy supports a coordinated Volkswagen Settlement review process that takes lawmaker concerns into account, but funneling a technical, administrative process through the legislature risks funds that could otherwise help utilities and communities electrify Minnesota’s transportation system.
HF 3044 / SF 2567: Cripples Minnesota’s building code by requiring all rule changes over $1,000 go through the legislature as opposed to the current technical review process. This would functionally prevent all safety, energy efficiency, and technology improvements from being made to Minnesota’s residential code—creating undue risks and increased costs of living for families who purchase new homes.
HF 3110: Repeals one of the most foundational energy policy on the books in Minnesota. The calculation of environmental costs was first put into state law in the early 1990s and the values were recently updated to account for new science developed over the past several decades. This bill would take Minnesota in the wrong direction by ignoring the cost of pollution to our air, water, and health.
SF 2696 / HF 3232: Puts strict rules in place for any rollover funds from the Solar Rewards Program, overturning a recent rulemaking decision that ordered Xcel Energy to create the state’s first low income rooftop solar program. It also raises the project cap for the Xcel Energy Solar Rewards program from 20 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts, essentially allowing larger customers—like farms and small businesses—to utilize the program more fully. That may inherently mean there are fewer dollars for smaller residential projects.
HF4068: This bill repeals existing statute within the Conservation Improvement Program that provides funding to the Minnesota Department of Commerce to establish, maintain, and update data reporting and tracking systems to enable accurate measurement and verification of cost and energy savings through utility energy efficiency programs. This platform is available to all utilities throughout the state to assist efforts to meet and exceed Minnesota’s 1.5 percent annual energy savings goal and removing this funding limits the state’s ability to maximize cost-effective energy savings.
Bills to watch
SF 3760: This bill would require the Public Utilities Commission to evaluate, consider, and report on local and non-local employment and worker impacts when evaluating certificate of need applications for energy projects.
SF 3245 / HF3688: Fresh Energy supports the expansion of residential clean energy financing options. This is one of several bills expected to be introduced specifically geared towards implementing a residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing tool after last year’s repeal of Minnesota residential PACE statute. It specifically requires any lien for clean energy projects to be subordinate. Another bill (HF 3996) requires the lien to be superior.
SF 3299 / HF4241: Limits the amount of Volkswagen settlement funds that can be spent on administrative expenses to three percent. Additionally, prohibits hiring additional staff using settlement money.
SF 3628 / HF 3760: Establishes a Department of Commerce grant program to fund solar energy systems (under 300 kilowatts) on school buildings. Grantees must be a customer of Xcel Energy and the grants could fund up to 95 percent of the cost. One-time appropriation of $16 million from Renewable Development Account.
SF 3558 / HF 3993: Establishes an energy conservation utility stakeholder group and requires funding of the Energy Savings Platform , while removing the Department of Commerce’s authority to direct its spending.
SF 3397: Modifies the requirement for Xcel Energy to operate a program providing solar incentives for systems up to 40 kilowatts (from 20 kilowatts) until December31, 2023. $15 million each year is allocated from the Renewable Development Account.
HF 2723: Requires that savings from the federal tax bill for investor-owned utilities are sent directly to the utility’s customers. This is not needed, because in order to ensure refunds dollars are spent in the most cost-effective way, there is already a process being undertaken at the Public Utilities Commission where all stakeholders have a chance to weigh in.
SF 2473: Creates a framework by which federal Volkswagen Settlement funds could be spent after they are received from the trustee administering the settlement. Certain aspects of the language may inhibit equitable distribution of the funds to communities across the state. We are still analyzing the language to determine if changes could be made to eliminate those risks.
SF 2919 / HF3685: Clarifies the ability for third parties to finance clean energy projects without being considered a utility. Mirrors language that was included in various versions of the landmark 2013 solar energy package before ultimately being pulled.
SF3483 / HF3904: This bill modifies requirements on the number of unlicensed workers a licensed electrical worker may supervise when racking and installing certain parts of a solar photovoltaic system. This bill would allow licensed electrical workers to supervise up to five unlicensed individuals (the current language is set at two unlicensed individuals). Solar racking and installation is largely considered nonelectrical work
If you have questions about these bills, please contact Matt Privratsky, Fresh Energy’s director of public affairs, at email@example.com.