Minnesota commission kills rehearing request from Aurora Distributed Solar

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on June 17 issued an order rejecting a request for reconsideration from Aurora Distributed Solar LLC related a 100-MW of distributed solar projects.

Said the June 17 order: “Based upon this review, the Commission finds that the petition does not raise new issues, does not point to new and relevant evidence, does not expose errors or ambiguities in the April 13 order, and does not otherwise persuade the Commission that it should rethink the decisions set forth in its order. The Commission concludes that its decision is consistent with the facts, the law, and the public interest, and will therefore deny the petition for reconsideration.”

In April 2015, Northern States Power d/b/a Xcel Energy petitioned the commission for approval of Minnesota-jurisdictional costs of the Aurora Power Purchase Agreement (Aurora PPA). The Aurora PPA is for 100 MW of distributed solar energy. The project was selected through a competitive resource acquisition process which solicited and evaluated proposals to meet Xcel’s capacity need identified in its 2011-2025 Integrated Resource Plan.

In August 2015, the commission approved the Aurora PPA and found that while meeting renewable energy objectives was not the principal purpose of the Aurora PPA, the project was nonetheless a reasonable and prudent part of Xcel’s plan to meet its obligations under the state’s Solar Energy Standard (SES). Therefore the commission authorized cost recovery of the Minnesota-jurisdictional portion of the Aurora PPA through the fuel clause rider.

In October 2015, Xcel Energy filed a petition for recovery in Minnesota of a portion of the North Dakota jurisdictional costs of the Aurora PPA (ND Cost Petition) after those costs were not granted an Advanced Determination of Prudence (ADP) by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (ND PSC).

Xcel described a letter agreement between itself and Aurora Distributed Solar providing that Aurora would bear North Dakota-related costs of the Aurora PPA if both Minnesota and North Dakota commissions rejected recovery of those costs from ratepayers in those states. This concession was in exchange for Xcel not exercising certain PPA termination rights relating to unrecovered costs.

On April 13, the Minnesota commission issued its order denying recovery of North Dakota-related costs. The order denied Xcel’s petition with prejudice. The order first provided that Xcel had not met its burden to establish that it is reasonable to recover the Aurora PPA’s North Dakota-related costs from Minnesota ratepayers.  The Minnesota commission concluded that even if Xcel had provided sufficient data in its proposal, it was not just or reasonable for Xcel’s Minnesota ratepayers to subsidize North Dakota ratepayers’ consumption of solar energy.

On May 3, Aurora filed its petition for reconsideration.

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.