2024 Legislative Session recap

June 7, 2024
On May 20, Minnesota officially concluded the 2024 Legislative Session, which also wrapped up the 2023-24 biennium. Substantial legislation around the clean energy transition has passed, paving the way for the state to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040 — a law set during the 2023 session.

How does CEEM educate at the Capitol?

Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) develops and supports public policy that promotes the growth of energy efficiency and clean energy jobs and the economic opportunities provided by clean, affordable and reliable energy. Working with Minnesota’s state legislature, the executive branch and before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), CEEM provides a clean energy business voice to inform state-level policy decisions and grow equitable and inclusive clean energy market opportunities. Learn more about our work at the Capitol.

What were CEEM’s top priorities going into this year’s legislative session?

At the onset of the 2024 Legislative Session, CEEM set four key objectives, all of which have yielded significant results this session, demonstrating our commitment to driving change in the clean energy sector.

  • Advance smart implementation
  • Permitting reform
  • Expand transmission
  • Support increased interconnection.

What were the new energy policies passed during the 2024 session?

Permitting reform

Clean energy permitting reform was one of the most substantial policies passed in this legislative session. Permitting reform is essential to Minnesota’s goal of achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. The Energy Infrastructure Permitting Act streamlines the permitting process for large-scale energy projects at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This legislation reduces bureaucratic redundancies and improves efficiencies, facilitating the timely development of wind, solar, and battery storage projects. These reforms are vital for overcoming the largest roadblock to renewable energy deployment, demonstrating Minnesota’s commitment to embracing the clean energy transition and unlocking its full potential.

In addition to the passage of the Minnesota Energy Infrastructure Permitting Act, another provision aimed at relieving grid congestion requires utilities to evaluate Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs) on highly congested lines. GETs include dynamic line rating, power-flow control devices, and analytical tools that reduce the need for new infrastructure and support the integration of renewables️, and maximize the grid’s current capacity. Adopting these technologies can quickly and cost-effectively free up space on the grid for more generation while we continue to build out the larger infrastructure pieces.

 

NextGen Highways

Another essential piece of energy infrastructure completed in this session was allowing the co-location of utility and high voltage transmission infrastructure in existing transportation corridors, like highways and interstates, to speed development critical for the clean energy transition. This legislation, paired with permitting reform, allows another method to expand transmission, which is needed as different sectors continue to electrify.

 

C-PACE updates

Updating the C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing program will align Minnesota with national standards, offering significant benefits to commercial property owners. These reforms will lower barriers, making it easier for owners to enhance the sustainability of commercial buildings. By providing more attractive financing options and greater flexibility, these changes will support the state’s transition to more energy-efficient properties, contributing to broader environmental and economic goals.

 

Distributed generation

Interconnection reforms introduce a significant cost-sharing model designed to manage the expenses associated with distribution grid upgrades. This model will be overseen by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, ensuring that the financial burden is equitably distributed among stakeholders. Additionally, the bill establishes the role of an interconnection ombudsperson, whose primary responsibility will be to assist in resolving disputes that may arise during the interconnection process. This dual approach aims to facilitate smoother, more efficient upgrades to the grid while providing a structured mechanism for addressing any issues, ultimately promoting a more resilient and reliable energy infrastructure in Minnesota.

 

ECO Act & Residential Codes

The Minnesota Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act has recently been updated to streamline its implementation, making it more efficient and user-friendly. The revised language of the act empowers energy consumers to discover additional methods to save money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These updates are designed to simplify the process, making it easier for individuals and businesses to adopt energy-saving measures and contribute to the state’s environmental goals. By enhancing accessibility and providing more options for conservation, the updated ECO Act aims to drive significant progress in Minnesota’s efforts to optimize energy use and reduce its carbon footprint.

Updates to the residential building code will require that new homes be built to nearly net zero by 2038. The codes were updated to increase efficiency requirements and accelerate code adoption, providing the Department of Labor and Industry with a clear path to code adoption.

 

Solar*Rewards

The legislature has allocated $50 million from the Renewable Development Account (RDA), beginning in 2026, with a $5 million appropriation to be withheld for the next ten calendar years. This substantial financial commitment is intended to ensure the longevity and stability of the Solar*Rewards program. By securing this annual funding, the program will have a reliable source of support, enabling it to continue incentivizing and promoting the adoption of solar energy across Minnesota. This initiative underscores the state’s dedication to fostering a sustainable and resilient clean energy future, ensuring that the benefits of solar power remain accessible to residents and businesses alike for years to come.

 

SolarAPP+

The recently passed energy legislation includes language regarding the Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) software and allocates $1.5 million from the Renewable Development Account (RDA) to support its implementation. SolarAPP+ is a crucial tool designed to streamline the approval process and expedite the issuance of permits for residential solar energy and storage systems. By simplifying these procedures, SolarAPP+ will make it easier for homeowners to adopt solar technology, thereby promoting the expansion of renewable energy use across the state. This initiative is expected to significantly enhance the efficiency and accessibility of residential solar installations, contributing to Minnesota’s broader clean energy goals.

 

Workforce Development

This session in the Higher Education Policy and Finance Omnibus Bill, contained language to include the energy sector as an eligible field of study for the Workforce Development Scholarship at Minnesota State system. The inclusion of energy as part of the $2,500 Workforce Development Scholarship Program will allow students to pursue much-needed careers in the energy sector and enable significant economic and job growth opportunities in Minnesota.

 

A plethora of geothermal legislation

The Sabathani Community Center Energy Project in Minneapolis received $6 million from the Renewable Development Account (RDA) to support the installation of a district energy geothermal heat pump system. This funding was included in the Ag, Energy, Commerce Omnibus package.

Additionally, the package consists of a provision to establish a grant program for local governments to assess the feasibility of installing geothermal energy systems in Xcel-territory cities with populations under 30,000, backed by a $1.2 million appropriation from the RDA for Fiscal Year 2025.

Also included was language to change the permit requirements for groundwater thermal exchange devices, aiding the development of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage technology.

Other notable geothermal provisions include the establishment of the Thermal Energy Network Pilot, which received a $500,000 appropriation from the General Fund, and the creation of the Thermal Energy Workgroup, both of which require reports on their progress.

 

More in clean energy technologies

The Environment and Natural Resources Supplemental Budget Bill contained language that will allow for the recovery of waste heat from wastewater for low-carbon district heating systems. This is an innovative solution in clean energy technology because it will use a readily available resource to produce, distribute, and use energy while also lowering energy costs.

More in clean energy technologies was the appropriation of $5 million for an anaerobic digester project. The project, Dem-Con HZI Bioenergy, LLC (DCHZI), is a public-private partnership between Ramsey and Washington County Recycling and Energy Partnership and a joint venture between Dem-Con Companies and Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI). The anaerobic digester will help process up to 70,000 tons of organic waste sourced from Ramsey and Washington counties, with production estimated to be 170,000 MMBtu of renewable natural gas (RNG).

Next up

Looking ahead, Minnesota faces several critical challenges and opportunities in its clean energy transition. With increased load demand from data centers and the electrification and reshoring of heavy industry, there will be a significant rise in energy consumption that must be addressed. Developing robust energy storage policies and incentives for adoption will be crucial to effectively balancing supply and demand. Additionally, the ongoing discussions around replacing baseload power, including considerations for nuclear energy, will play a pivotal role in ensuring a stable and reliable energy grid. Furthermore, the extraction and utilization of critical minerals will become increasingly important as these materials are essential for renewable energy technologies and infrastructure. These topics will be central to the state’s energy policy and planning as Minnesota continues to advance towards its ambitious clean energy goals.

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