Policy priorities for the 2024 Minnesota Legislative Session

February 14, 2024
During the 2024 Legislative Session Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) is focused on building policies encouraging economy-wide decarbonization and market development for clean energy by reducing and eliminating key barriers.CEEM provides “the business voice of clean energy” to influence policy decisions and grow equitable and inclusive clean energy market opportunities.

Level-setting for the 2024 legislative session

Last year, the 2023 Minnesota Legislature was a historic legislative session which included a massive bonding bill, passage of the 100% clean energy by 2040 law, and significant future forward funding for energy investment and programs. In 2023, the legislature leveraged the $17.5 billion surplus as well as significant federal legislation like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to create new programs and speed the transition to Minnesota’s clean energy future.

The 2024 legislative session is the second year in the biennium with Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan in their second term. This session will focus on implementation of new laws and programs and removing barriers to enable the growth of the clean energy economy in Minnesota. With the 2024 legislative session being shorter, with a much smaller budget surplus, and a non-budget year, it is the perfect opportunity to make the push for policy bills to pass through the legislature.

This session, CEEM’s goal is to build upon policies encouraging economy-wide decarbonization and market development for clean energy by reducing and eliminating key barriers. This effort will involve supporting state policies such as:

  • Speeding up transmission build-out
  • Enhancing the grid across the state
  • Streamlining the permitting process
  • Addressing interconnection delays

See the full list of our 2024 policy priorities.

MN Capitol Building

Implementation

Last session, the legislature passed more than 30 new programs to be administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. In response to this massive influx of new work, Commerce went on a hiring spree this winter, adding more than 60 new positions, increasing its headcount by two-thirds.

CEEM’s goal is to help ensure timely implementation of recently passed programs to create business certainty and speed up the clean energy transition. CEEM will continue to inform business members on the state implementation of programs related to the Carbon Free Law, State Competitiveness Fund, and other energy-efficient upgrade incentive programs for Minnesotans. Some of the other new programs CEEM is actively working with the agency to stand up are:

Read more about these programs in our press release from the end of last session.

Transmission

CEEM is laser focused this year on educating lawmakers around the need for rapid buildout of transmission across the state. Currently, more than 91.4% of high-voltage transmission lines across the country are at full capacity, according to the American Society for Civil Engineers.

Upgrading and expanding transmission infrastructure will enable the delivery of more clean, affordable, reliable energy across a larger footprint. With more pathways for energy to travel, there will be less congestion on the grid and more ability to build out generation to meet growing demand. Strengthening the grid will enable regions to import and export power if needed during extreme weather, helping to keep the lights on and people safe. Transmission and the permitting reform needed in the state to expedite the buildout of transmission are inextricably linked.

Permitting reform

The two are so closely linked, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) convened a working group of 30 stakeholders late in 2023 to explore myriad methods of permitting reform that could be implemented. CEEM’s Director of Government Affairs George Damian represented the organization on this working group.

From the executive summary of the working group’s final report,

“The overall sentiment of the group coalesced around the premise that the current process is not broken but can and should be improved to better align with the demands of the energy transition requirements mandated by the Legislature.

Many stakeholders observed that aspects of current processes create avoidable delays and uncertainties for developers, while also creating confusion and frustration on the part of stakeholders seeking clarity on the decision-making process.

To that end, the group focused on identifying and discussing possible changes that would make the various Commission approval processes, especially permitting, more efficient, shorter, and less costly – without compromising public input and community involvement or impairing the Commission’s ability to make informed decisions.”

View the entire report, available here.

minnesota state capitol in daylight

Interconnection

Interconnection delays and costs have become one of the largest remaining barriers to getting more distributed energy on the grid. This has become a point of frustration to developers, customers, and even utilities frustrated by bad headlines when these stories reach the public.

This session CEEM plans to engage in the discussion around how best to alleviate our current interconnection headache while building new processes that work in a more fair and equitable way to get distributed energy projects connected to the grid. Minnesota’s interconnection delays have been covered extensively by the media, see here for an example of the problems.

Transportation

In 2023, the Minnesota Legislature passed key state policies complementing federal policy and incentives working toward decarbonizing the transportation sector, like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. Continuing to support statewide EV infrastructure buildout and EV automotive manufacturing in Minnesota will be critical to ensuring we meet the state’s transportation decarbonization goals.

Additionally, CEEM will continue to support efforts to implement a Clean Transportation Standard (CTS) in Minnesota utilizing the recommendations from the report published by the CTS Working Group. Establishing a Clean Transportation Standard in Minnesota will play an important role in reducing carbon pollution in the Transportation sector.

Energy Efficiency

In 2024, CEEM supports the modernization of building energy codes and standards through energy optimization, net-zero building goals, building performance standards, and grid-interactive buildings. Applying innovative technologies to buildings, old and new, will greatly help to decarbonize buildings and increase efficiency.

CEEM will also continue efforts to modernize the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) and expand opportunities for Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) to address current barriers to spur further implementation of energy conservation measures. CEEM facilitates a stakeholder interest group among business members who are experienced with utilizing GESP and will continue to meet with the Minnesota Department of Commerce to find ways to modernize the program. Furthermore, CEEM wants to ensure timely implementation of energy-efficient upgrade programs passed last legislative session such as the Electric Panel Rebate Program and the Heat Pump Rebate Program which will both alleviate cost burdens on homeowners.

Regulatory Affairs

Over the last year, CEEM has increased engagement in regulatory proceedings to assert the business voice of clean energy, focus on market development, and remove unnecessary barriers. It will be critical to CEEM to raise awareness of business impacts due to extended interconnection queues and permitting hold ups. Additionally, CEEM will continue to support MISO and state-level transmission development. CEEM is engaged with a state-level coalition with NextGen Highways to advocate for the use of public right of ways (ROWs) to expand transmission development. Our actions will ensure Minnesota’s regulatory environment can deliver a thriving, equitable and affordable clean energy future.

Minnesota Utility Scale Solar Sylvan Minnesota

Clean Energy Policy

Within the solar and storage industry, CEEM will continue to support the development of the new Community Solar Garden (CSG) program and protect legacy projects to ensure a stable and predictable environment for projects and business in our state. CEEM will also continue to work on extending and securing funding for Solar*Rewards, energy storage, and other renewable energy incentives to ensure cost-savings for rate payers. Additionally, CEEM will help to address policy and market barriers to expand energy storage technologies while also leveraging the Minnesota Department of Commerce study to create effective and efficient energy storage policies.

CEEM will also support clean energy technology advancement and policies that will strengthen and lead Minnesota’s clean energy economy. CEEM will educate policymakers on subjects including the hydrogen economy, microgrid research and commercialization, aligning and modernizing the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) rules to match national financing trends, exploring utilization of all carbon-free sources to replace fossil fuels as a baseload energy source, and the economic prosperity of mining and critical minerals on the Iron Range to create supply chain resiliency for clean energy innovation.

Bioenergy

CEEM will work to strengthen Minnesota’s bioenergy sector in 2024 through funding to expand markets. This session CEEM will expand on policies created last year to leverage the bioeconomy. CEEM will do this by supporting language clarifying the importance and definition of biomass in Minnesota’s Carbon Free Law, educating policymakers on the economic opportunity of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), and increasing program funding that expands utilization of sustainable biomass.

There are over 2,200 operating anaerobic digester (AD) facilities in the United States and have not expanded due to barriers preventing acceleration of project development timelines. CEEM will support the expansion of anaerobic digestion projects in Minnesota by addressing the permitting and siting barriers to AD projects to ensure project development timelines are not delayed and Minnesota reaches its potential in anaerobic digestion technology.

Additionally, CEEM will support full funding of the AGRI Bioincentive Program which was not fully funded in its request last session. The AGRI Bioincentive Program, established by the MN State Legislature in 2015, continues to create significant economic impacts by increasing productivity, improving efficiency, and assisting the development of agriculture products.

Stay Involved

You can view our 2024 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 and legislative updates and follow us on social media for the latest news from the Capitol.

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