The countdown begins: Six weeks to go of the 2018 Legislative Session
2018 Legislative Session Update with Logan O’Grady
The legislature is on recess this week for their annual Easter/Passover break. This spring recess gives legislators the chance to head back to their districts to catch up with constituents before returning to the Capitol for the final few weeks of session which is constitutionally mandated to adjourn sine die by May 21.
It has been a short but busy 2018 session. In fact, lawmakers have introduced a record 8,207 bills between last year and this year (so far). Our team at CEEM has remained focused on the key bills that will continue to grow Minnesota’s clean energy economy, including:
Receiving unanimous, bipartisan support in its first hearing in the Senate Energy Committee, S.F. 3266 was referred to the Senate’s powerful Finance Committee where it awaits a hearing by Chairwoman, Senator Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center). CEEM has worked collaboratively with other stakeholders, including the national Energy Storage Association (ESA) and the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association (MnSEIA), as well as Minnesota’s three Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), to develop language that does three things:
- The bill directs the Department of Commerce to conduct a cost benefit analysis of energy storage in Minnesota. Taking into consideration the economic impacts, and market opportunities energy storage will have on energy consumers and Minnesota-based companies working to develop storage technology here.
- The bill requires IOUs to include energy storage in their Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This is an important step in ensuring energy storage is fairly considered by utilities and can compete with other forms of traditional and new energy production.
- It incentivizes IOUs to develop energy storage pilot projects and enables IOUs to recover costs for implementing storage projects through their rate case process at the PUC. This will have an immediate impact on storage-related jobs on the ground here in Minnesota.
CEEM has been working for more than two years with Senator Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks), Representative Deb Kiel (R-Crookston), and industry leaders to implement a tax credit for individuals who purchase a wood or hydronic heater for their homes.
This bill was first heard last year in the Senate Tax Committee. This year, the bill passed with bipartisan support out of the House Energy Committee and received a favorable hearing in the House Taxes Committee where it is now laid over for possible inclusion in a later bill.
With support from both sides of the aisle in the Senate and the House, CEEM is optimistic that this bill will result in meaningful options for consumers that will help our Minnesota-based manufacturers.
Xcel Energy has asked the legislature to approve a plan that would make it easier for Xcel to recover the costs of capital improvements on its nuclear facilities. These costs (estimated to be over $1.4 billion) are needed, according to Xcel, to keep the nuclear facilities operational until their end of life.
The bill passed out of the Senate Energy Committee on a bipartisan 7-2 vote and is headed to the Senate floor for debate.
CEEM joined other opponents of the bill, arguing this premature decision that circumvents the PUC’s process could result in over a billion dollars invested in a more expensive technology because the costs of energy efficiency and renewables is declining every day. See our letter here.
A bill that would result in an unfunctional Residential PACE program in Minnesota is on its way to becoming law. S.F. 3245 and H.F. 3688 have been passing easily through committees with bipartisan support.
CEEM joined MnSEIA, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the St. Paul Port Authority, in opposing this bill because it defines a PACE assessment as a loan and allows banks to collect on the mortgage first if payments go into a default — a tactic that would kill an operational Residential PACE program in Minnesota. Other states that have taken this approach (such as Colorado and Vermont) currently have no Residential PACE program despite enabling legislation that allows for it.