Minnesota Senate aims to make state first to use 100% renewable energy

The Minnesota state Senate has passed and returned to the state House its amended version of the state House Omnibus Energy Bill after adding language articulating the goal of making the state the first in the nation to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources.

The senate-amended version of House File (H.F.) 956 does not outline a plan or set a specific target date for a transition to a 100% renewable economy, but directs the state’s legislative energy commission to develop a framework that would enable the state “to transition to a renewable energy economy that ends … burning of fossil fuels within the next few decades [and] aim[s] to make Minnesota the first state in the nation to use only renewable energy.”

The bill also requires the commission to deliver a progress report to legislative committees and divisions with jurisdiction over energy policy by Jan. 15, 2014, and annually thereafter.

In making its amendments, the senate removed a house provision that would have increased the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 40% by 2030. The senate passed the bill by a vote of 37-to-26 after third reading on May 10.

The senate changed H.F. 956 after the Senate Committee on Rules and Registration recommended stripping the house bill of all language after the enacting clause and substituting the language contained in the senate version of an omnibus energy bill, Senate File (S.F.) 901, thus making the two bills identical. The senate then postponed indefinitely its own bill in favor of moving forward with the amended House version.

Although it removed a provision that would have increased the state’s RPS, the senate retained a requirement that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) order all Minnesota electric utilities and all transmission companies “to study and develop plans for the network enhancements necessary to support increasing the renewable energy standard in Minnesota to 40% by 2030,” and referred to it as a “renewable integration study” rather than transmission for future renewable energy standards.

The amended bill retains the requirement that the PUC arrange for three separate studies dealing with renewable energy generation and energy storage.

The first study will look at the potential for solar energy installations – specifically, photovoltaic devices – on or adjacent to public buildings in Minnesota. The second study will analyze the potential costs and benefits of installing utility-managed, grid-connected energy storage devices in residential and commercial buildings in this state, while the third study will analyze the potential costs and benefits of expanding the installation of solar thermal projects in residential and commercial buildings and the potential for such projects to reduce heating and cooling costs for individual customers and to reduce costs at the utility level as well.

The results of all three studies must be submitted to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with primary jurisdiction over energy policy and state government finance by Jan. 1, 2014.

The senate revision deleted language that would require that the Hollydale transmission project being proposed by Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) and Great River Energy be subject to a certificate of need (CoN) proceeding.

The bill will now go to conference committee for further discussion before the state Legislature’s constitutionally mandated May 20 adjournment.