Friday, March 8, 2013

New Bill Would Expand Solar Energy Use in Minnesota

SAINT PAUL, MN – Energy legislation aimed to increase the deployment of solar energy and other clean energy in Minnesota was introduced on Monday, February 25 in the Minnesota House, according to a March 5 press release from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.

The bill, House File 956/Senate File 901 sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman and Sen. John Marty, Chairs of the House and Senate Energy Policy Committees, would amend Minnesota’s 30-year-old net-metering law by increasing the cap on net-metered systems from 40 kilowatts to 1,000 kilowatts (or 1 megawatt) for customers and facilities that offset their energy use through renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The bill would also expand opportunities for small businesses to install solar projects and would set minimum solar electricity generation standards for utilities.

“This clean-energy legislation will help move Minnesota forward to generate more solar and wind energy,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “It will allow more opportunities for businesses to offset their energy use with renewable energy generated onsite. This bill will help create more clean energy jobs, diversify the resources used to meet our energy needs, and provide a long-term policy signal to develop a stable solar market in Minnesota.”

Minnesota was the first state to establish a net-metering standard in 1983. The current net-metering law provides a 40-kilowatt limit on net-metered systems, which serves some residential and small business customers fairly well. But increasing the limit to 1,000 kilowatts would enhance the development of important local energy resources for larger energy use customers such as bigger businesses, which could offset large percentages or all of their electric use with solar or other clean energy.

In addition, the legislation calls for establishing a solar electricity standard that would require a specified percentage of electric utilities’ total retail sales to retail customers in Minnesota to be generated by solar energy by 2016, 2020 and 2025. 

Another component of the bill includes language that removes a barrier in state law for third party financing of solar projects.  This provides an opportunity for individual homeowners who would not be able to invest in solar, to join with other investors in purchasing a solar project.  This model has been successful in other states as a tool to spur solar energy production. 

Source: Minnesota Department of Commerce press release

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