Minnesota PUC kicks off study process for higher renewables %

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on July 22 issued an order that requires various electric and transmission companies to participate in a process for studying the impacts of a higher percentage of in-state power coming from renewable energy projects.

During the 2013 legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature directed the commission to order all Minnesota electric utilities and transmission companies to participate in a study regarding increasing the Renewable Energy Standards to 40% by 2030, and to higher proportions thereafter.

Under state statute, all Minnesota investor-owned electric utilities, generation and transmission cooperatives, municipal power agencies, and power districts must generate or procure specific percentages of their total retail sales using eligible renewable technologies by specific year-end deadlines. These requirements, called the Renewable Energy Standards, are different for nuclear and non-nuclear utilities:

Non-Nuclear Utilities   Nuclear Utility (Xcel Energy only)

2012-12%                        2010-15%

2016-17%                        2012-18%

2020-20%                        2016-25%

2025-25%                        2020-30%

The statute requires utilities to report on compliance efforts at least every two years and directs the commission to regularly investigate each utility’s compliance. It authorizes the commission to enter orders requiring specific performance by non-complying utilities and to assess financial penalties if those orders are not obeyed.

The following entities have been identified as those required to comply with the Act:

  • Basin Electric Power Cooperative
  • Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
  • Dairyland Power Cooperative
  • East River Electric Power Cooperative Inc.
  • Great River Energy
  • Heartland Consumers Power District
  • Interstate Power and Light Co.
  • L & O Power Cooperative
  • Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
  • Minnesota Power
  • Minnkota Power Cooperative Inc.
  • Missouri River Energy Services
  • Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy
  • Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Co.
  • Otter Tail Power Co.
  • Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
  • American Transmission Co.
  • ITC Midwest LLC

Minnesota law requires affected entities to conduct an engineering study of the impacts on reliability and costs, including necessary transmission network upgrades, of increasing the renewable energy standard. The Act requires the study to be completed and submitted to the commission by Nov. 1, 2014.

The study is to be done under the direction of the commissioner of the state Department of Commerce. Prior to the start of the study, the commissioner, in consultation with the electric utility and transmission companies, is also to appoint a technical review committee of up to 15 individuals with experience and expertise in electric transmission system engineering, electric power systems operations, and renewable energy technology. The committee needs to review the study’s proposed methods and assumptions, ongoing work, and preliminary results.

As part of the planning process, the electric utilities and transmission companies are also required to collaborate with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) to encourage the integration of Minnesota’s planning work and other regional considerations into MISO’s future transmission expansion planning work.

Finally, the study is required to include a conceptual plan for the transmission necessary for generation interconnection and delivery. The report must include a description of the analyses conducted and the results obtained, and must identify any critical issues and potential solutions to identified issues as they pertain to increasing the renewable energy standard to 40% by 2030.

The July 22 order mandates the start of that study process.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.