Update: Minnesota’s clean energy legislative outlook amid pandemic crisis

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ECO Act passes both Minnesota House and Senate Chambers!

The Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act was heard in energy committees in both the Senate and House on Thursday, April 23. We are happy to report that the bill was passed out of these committees. The bill had strong support, and the bill authors called out the support of clean energy groups. Ahead of both committee hearings, we submitted a letter signed by 10 of our business members, which provided important support as the "business voice of clean energy" for the bill moving forward. View the letter here.

A few steps remain in each chamber. 

The next steps are straightforward in each chamber. In the Senate, the bill will go to the Senate floor and will be sent to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Finally, the bill will return to the floor. In the House, the bill will go directly to the House floor. That leaves three weeks until the legislature is still set to adjourn on May 18. 

Original post | 4.16.2020

The policy opportunities for the remainder of the 2020 legislative session remain limited. Lawmakers recessed on March 17 and are reconvening on a limited basis for COVID-related actions. We are still unsure of legislative processes, and social distancing will likely mean significant changes for discussion of bills. Leaders have outlined three priorities for the remainder of session:

  1. COVID-19 response
  2. State bonding
  3. Matters where both parties have strong agreement on bills already moving at the Capitol

We continue to work with other clean energy colleagues to understand where  clean energy legislation may fit with legislative objectives. In particular, we’re eyeing bills around energy efficiency, community solar, and spending from the state’s Renewable Development Account. 

Energy Conservation and Optimization

With respect to energy efficiency, CEEM believes the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act has some potential for passage. The ECO Act includes improvements to Minnesota's Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), which is a program that supports electric and gas utilities in reaching their energy-savings goals (full text of bills SF4409 / HF4502). This legislation would be the first major update to CIP since 2007. ECO may receive legislative support for three reasons:

  1. The ECO Act has support in both parties;
  2. It requires no spending out of the state's general revenue fund;
  3. It will spur economic development through local jobs and investment in clean energy.

Community Solar

CEEM is working to advance bills aimed to continue our state’s nation-leading community solar program. Alongside CEEM members, utilities, and other industry partners, we hope to ensure community solar has a place in our state’s clean energy economy for years to come. CSG policy approaches differ between the House and Senate, and the outlook for policy passage  is unclear at this time.

Renewable Development Account

CEEM also hopes to ensure strategic use of the state’s Renewable Development Account (RDA). The RDA was established to stimulate innovative, renewable energy projects, and the solar industry urges its use for that purpose in this moment of crisis.

RDA dollars can stimulate economic growth without impacting the unprecedented need for General Fund spending, which we support for helping our Minnesota neighbors, families, and communities. 

RDA spending approaches differ between the House and Senate, and the outlook for spending decisions is unclear at this time. Using funds from the RDA, proposals for Solar*Rewards and Solar on Schools found strong support this session with both the House, Senate and Governor’s Administration. CEEM supports provisions supported in multiple bills.

The following bills we view as having the best chance for rapid renewable energy sector job creation: 

  • Solar*Rewards bill  language and allocations detailed in HF3781/SF3389
  • Solar on Schools amended language HF1842.

CEEM is a resource for voicing clean energy business concerns

CEEM is listening to the needs of our business members. We remain a resource as the business voice of clean energy as decision makers at all levels consider policy options intended to boost our economy in response to the effects of COVID-19. We understand workforce safety, job retention and creation, and state and federal incentives are important discussion topics with these decision makers. 

We continue to reach out to our members, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Benjamin and Lily with any ideas or suggestions.