What will be Minnesota’s Energy Plan?

by Michelle Rosier

** This blog was updated on 4/8/15 based on changes made to the House energy omnibus proposal. The bill is now 164 pages, and we’re still evaluating it. **

On April 6th, the House Jobs and Affordable Energy Committee posted a final energy package that was radically different from the Senate’s Clean Energy Plan (SF 1431) passed two weeks earlier. Evaluating and reforming energy and climate policy is important, but the House proposal guts Minnesota’s successful, nationally recognized clean energy and climate policies. We believe that evaluation and reform should be done in an attempt to transition Minnesota’s energy system and economy from dirty fossil fuels to no carbon, renewable sources to improve air and water quality, reduce the impacts of climate change, create economic benefits and jobs for all Minnesotans, and to create a resilient, affordable, and reliable energy system and economy.

MinnesotasEnergyPlan

Poll after poll demonstrates this is what Minnesotans want to see. From Minnesota Power’s service territory, 83% of those polled supported fundamentally changing the way we generate energy to maximize energy savings, wind and solar. Last summer, another statewide poll showed 70% of Minnesotans support requiring the state to achieve 50% of its electricity generation from renewables. The House Energy Omnibus achieves neither and moves Minnesota in the wrong direction.

In Minnesota’s clean energy transition the following principles should be considered:

  1. Set benchmarks and optimize energy savings, renewable resources, and greenhouse gas pollution reductions to achieve Minnesota’s science-based climate goals;
  2. Invest in least cost, least risk over the energy investment’s timeframe to ensure an affordable energy system for Minnesota’s businesses, utilities, and citizens;
  3. Create economic opportunities for all Minnesotans by growing the state’s clean energy industries;
  4. Everyone should pay and earn their fair share; including families, small businesses, large industrials, coops and utilities.

We support the Clean Energy & Jobs clean energy package (HF1395 and HF 1870) and the Department of Commerce bill (HF 1678) which we believe moves us closer to these principles.  While we are still evaluating the draft House Energy package, we can provide this feedback now:

  1. We oppose efforts to reduce or eliminate Minnesota’s science-based climate reduction goals (216H.02) and carbon offset standard (216H.03) and to create political gridlock around the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Clean Power Plan State Implementation Plan. There is ample evidence these are the reductions necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Minnesota is witnessing the impacts of a changing climate as has been documented to-date.
  2. We oppose counting existing (if that is the intent of the proposed “energy storage of renewables”) and new hydro over 100 MW in the renewable/advanced energy standard. Existing hydro accounts for approximately 9% of existing electricity generation which would mean a rollback of new renewables built because of the RES.  Large hydro from Manitoba has environmental and social justice concerns and should not be incentivized. Minnesota utilities can purchase large hydro if they choose today, but they don’t receive credit under the RES. This is in line with the proposed Clean Power Plan, and would be a bad precedent for Minnesota and the nation.
  3. We oppose eliminating/sunsetting the Conservation Improvement Program, but are willing to participate in conversations around a CIP 2.0 (including third party services, public power authority and/or the energy technology business accelerator.) The stakeholder process should be transparent and not limited as proposed. The Conservation Improvement Program has saved consumers money and avoided new construction of power plants which has been an important hedge for rate increases related to updating our electric system and increasing costs associated with fossil fuel generation.
  4. We oppose the changes to Minnesota solar policy related to weakening the 1.5% by 2020 solar energy standard, eliminating the 10% by 2030 solar goal and value of solar tariff for community solar gardens, and reducing overall amounts for solar incentives. Our members and supporters submitted over 6,400 comments in support of these solar policies in 2013, and 76% of voters polled in Minnesota Power’s service territory supported the 10% by 2030 goal in 2013.
  5. We oppose the repeal of Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium. Nuclear energy is more expensive than efficiency, wind and utility solar and provides none of the benefits of these resources or rooftop solar. The cost overruns which more than doubled the budget for Xcel’s Monticello uprate are indicative of nuclear projects’ ballooning costs around the country. You can read more about our position on nuclear here.
  6. We support continuing to look at opportunities to improve net metering, but the proposed changes in this bill are not fair to customers who own renewables because it does not adequately compensate them for the electricity they provide to the grid which benefits all customers. It is important in addressing the cost concerns of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association that there is evidence provided to help find a solution.
  7. We have concerns with the reallocation of Xcel Energy’s renewable development fund (RDF) away from research grants to incentive programs or the general fund, especially when applied statewide instead of to Xcel customers who contribute to the fund and when used for non-renewable purposes because that goes against the intent of the fund when established. The RDF is based on a payment for the “temporary” storage of nuclear casks and was intended to be used to find alternative, renewable energy solutions to Xcel’s continued reliance on its Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants. Will other utilities and their customers be asked to contribute to the funds that are available to them?
  8. We agree some siting and permitting reform is needed, and have issued a report on our solar permit findings from local government interviews. We support the Department of Commerce recommendations in HF1678 which were vetted by stakeholders, including local governments. We did not participate in this stakeholder process. We have concerns with the potentially overly burdensome siting outlined in this bill.

If you support Minnesota’s progress on clean energy and climate and think we need to keep moving forward, send that message to your legislators today.

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