Two pieces of legislation that would expand the amount of solar in the land of 10,000 lakes are moving forward. The Omnibus Energy Bills are working their way through the House and Senate simultaneously and are likely to see a vote before the end of the month.
House Bill HF 956 is the more aggressive, requiring investor-owned utilities in the state like Xcel Energy to source 4 percent of their power from solar by 2025. The bills compliment The Solar Energy Jobs Act of 2013 The bills would also increase the size of net-metered solar arrays to 1 megawatt to encourage more locally produced power, and investor-owned utilities would have to source 40 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030.
“The House Energy Omnibus bill continues Minnesota’s leadership as a center for clean energy and jobs with an increase of the Renewable Electricity Standard, establishes a strong solar energy standard 4 percent by 2025 with benchmarks of .5 percent by 2016, 2 percent by 2020 and 4 percent by 2025, and includes important policies that will make local power production more efficient and more affordable, as well as a provision that requires utilities to pay solar producers what solar is worth to the electricity system,” said Laura Burrington, managing director of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society. Meanwhile the Senate version, SF 901, was pared back to 1 percent of utilities’ electric generation by 2025.
“We expect to have votes in House and Senate Committees this week, and we may have floor action next week or the week after,” Barrington said. “Nothing is guaranteed without an outpouring of public support for clean energy.” The group is running a call in and letter writing campaign in support of the bills before the May 20 deadline for votes. So far, the support has been strong. During an Earth Day event MRES had more than 700 people show up at the capitol in support of solar.
State Senator John Marty (D) who introduced the bill in the Senate told Minnesota Public Radio that he’s frustrated by the amount of changes the Senate has made to his version of the bill. Such changes include carve-outs for certain industries like iron mines and paper mills. However, it could be strengthened when its heard in committees and on the Senate floor. Meanwhile the House bill is scheduled to be heard on the floor May 7.