Policy priorities for the 2021 Minnesota legislative session
Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) develops and supports public policy that promotes the growth of clean energy jobs and the economic opportunities provided by clean, affordable and reliable energy. Working with state lawmakers between the aisle (not across it), and alongside government policy and regulatory agencies, CEEM provides the business voice of clean energy to help shape policy decisions and grow clean energy market opportunities.
In 2021, targeted opportunities exist to accelerate Minnesota’s economic recovery by removing red tape and creating market opportunities for energy efficiency and clean energy development
Level setting for the session ahead
Minnesota remains the only divided legislature in the nation with Republicans leading the Senate, and Democrats in the Governor’s Office and leading the House of Representatives. With this split, viable policies will need to have bipartisan agreement. The legislature has indicated its intent to heavily focus on the state budget for this session, which will limit its ability to consider a variety of issues. There is also a growing movement in the clean energy industry to ensure that any progress made addresses equity in the forefront. Given these parameters, CEEM plans to work towards the following goal areas.
In 2021, CEEM will work to expand the availability and use of energy efficiency technologies and programs to reduce energy waste, save businesses and consumers money, and improve the productivity of Minnesota’s economy. One of our biggest goals this year is to support the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act. The ECO Act aims to ensure the cost-effective reduction of energy use and lowering of energy bills and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across Minnesota. This bill has bipartisan support and was a missed opportunity of the 2020 Legislature.
As more cities and states take steps to lower their energy usage, evidence suggests that policies on building energy usage are helping nudge energy consumption lower. CEEM will continue to support discussions on the use of enhanced building performance standards to reduce energy waste and GHG emissions from Minnesota’s buildings.
Solar and clean energy
CEEM’s 2021 goal is to defend existing solar programs and accelerate the growth of Minnesota’s solar industry. We will work to strengthen and modernize Minnesota’s nation-leading Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program — which was passed in 2013. The CSG program needs updates to recognize the growing pains and market changes from the past eight years. A main area of focus will be removing arbitrary red tape slowing the program down, like the contiguous county provision. As a reminder, the contiguous county provision is stated in law that all subscribers to a community solar garden must reside within the same county as the garden, or a contiguous county. Removing the contiguous county restriction will open up an industry-estimated 300 megawatts of untapped solar potential – leading to 12,000 new CSG construction jobs over the next 6-24 months.
In 2021, CEEM will continue to assert the business voice of clean energy in regulatory proceedings. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will decide important cases, including evaluating utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRPs). The IRP is where utilities and stakeholders discuss system transitions and investments in future energy sources. These IRP cases are particularly important as the state’s utilities each work toward aggressive clean and low-carbon commitments.
Another area of focus will center around the Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking process. This process is evaluating emissions and advanced clean energy transportation options, and is currently accepting comments. We believe rulemaking efforts to improve vehicle standards will benefit our business community, energy consumers and the economy. Advanced transportation is Minnesota’s third-largest clean energy sector with 3,191 jobs, according to our 2020 Clean Jobs Midwest Report.
We will also be working with MISO and FERC to overcome the major challenges facing our transmission market as it is of critical importance to ensuring Minnesota’s clean energy future.
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CEEM will work to advance market opportunities for energy storage to provide resiliency, security, and cost savings. Energy storage is gaining momentum as a key component to ensuring reliability in a carbon-free electric grid. Two years ago, the legislature passed a bill to call for a study about energy storage and called on utilities to plan for more storage opportunities. CEEM supports expanded action in this area, as a critical step to building a clean energy economy and keeping pace with state-GHG reduction goals.
Minnesota is facing a severe oversupply problem when it comes to dealing with emerald ash borer. CEEM believes bioenergy facilities can help the state address this problem — but it will need additional funding to smooth the path. CEEM will be working on this issue during the 2021 Legislative Session.
You can view our 2021 policy priorities document for more information. We will continue to monitor state and federal progress in the weeks and months ahead. Stay in the loop with our monthly newsletter, legislative updates and quarterly regulatory updates. Read more about how to contact your legislator in support of clean energy.