Minnesota’s Legislature passes compromise solar bill

Minnesota Solar

Solar on the Minneapolis Convention CenterLast week Minnesota’s Legislature had two different bills doing just about the same thing, promoting more solar in the state. They’ve compromised. A joint conference committee that met May 13 hashed out the details on a bill that both the state’s Senate and House could pass. The legislative bodies came together ahead of the session’s end so that the full House and Senate can vote on bill before the legislative session ends next week.

The Omnibus Energy Bills, HF 956 and SF 901, had differed in the amounts of solar they would require the state’s investor-owned utilities to install. The bill that made it through the House was a more aggressive, which would have required investor-owned utilities like Xcel Energy to source 4 percent of their electricity from solar by 2025. The Senate version of the bill passed on Friday. It would have required IOUs to source only 1 percent of their energy from renewables.

“Compromises were made on the solar energy standard percentage, but the timeline was moved up,” according to a post on Applied Energy Innovations’ Facebook page. The committee compromised by requiring IOUs to source 1.5 percent of their energy from solar by 2020. The compromise bill also requires 10 percent of the solar power to come from systems with nameplate capacities of 20 kilowatts or less.

The compromise bill also included other provisions, according to Applied Energy. “Community solar remains in the bill, as well as made in MN provisions,” the company said. “We are one step closer to fundamentally changing how MN produces and consumes energy.”

The community solar gardens provisions require that such systems are no larger than 1 megawatt. In addition, “The community solar garden program must be designed to offset the energy use of not less than five subscribers in each community solar garden program of which no single subscriber has more than a 40 percent interest,” The legislation said. Also, “The owner of the community solar garden may be a public utility or any other entity or organization that contracts to sell the output from the community solar garden to the utility.” Subscribers to the garden must also purchase at least 200 watts of the garden's generating capacity and can’t purchase more than 120 percent of their average annual energy consumption.

The bill also  changes Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program in the state, requiring it to spend $5 million annually for five years. The $5 million will support distributed solar energy systems no larger than 20 kilowatts. The bill also contains provisions for “Made in Minnesota” incentives.