Legislative Session includes small victories and missed opportunities
More action is needed to assist struggling clean energy industry
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – Facing a projected $2.4 billion budget deficit and the wild card of a pandemic, the 2020 Minnesota Legislative Session wrapped up with at least one success for the state’s clean energy industry. The Solar*Rewards program received a $15 million boost spread out over two years from the Renewable Development Account (*pending the signature of the bill from Governor Walz). Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) was disappointed however, to see the bipartisan Energy Conservation and Optimization Act (ECO) fail to get a vote in the final hours of session. CEEM’s Executive Director Gregg Mast released the following statement:
“Securing additional funding from the Renewable Development Account was a high priority for us,” said Gregg Mast. “Amid the immense hardship caused by COVID-19, these funds will stimulate jobs and expand market opportunities for clean energy providing both immediate and long-term benefits for Minnesota. We thank policymakers from both sides of the aisle for coming together to pass this important bill. It was unfortunate to see the ECO Act get so close to passage but run out of time. We urge that more action be taken in a special session to further our state’s transition to clean, affordable, and reliable energy.”
Mast applauded the bipartisan work of the DFL-led House Energy and Climate committee chaired by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) and the GOP-led Senate Energy and Utilities committee chaired by Sen. Dave Osmek (R-Mound). The two committee chairs helped shepherd the Renewable Development Account bill to fund the Solar*Rewards program.
COVID-19 has caused a monumental shift in priorities and opportunities for change. Mast said CEEM’s priority in the coming months includes ensuring that clean energy businesses have a seat at the table when it comes to crafting economic recovery policies.
“Minnesota’s energy efficiency and clean energy sectors have lost over 11,000 jobs which accounts for 18 percent of our total industry workforce since the pandemic began. Clean energy businesses have been responsible for record job growth over the past several years, and I am confident they will be able to strengthen Minnesota’s economy once again with swift action and support,” said Mast.
Other disappointments this session included the lack of a bonding bill. CEEM supports energy improvements to public buildings by leveraging bonding dollars. Funds to repair and replace building systems provide public benefits and create jobs. The 2020 capital request for the state’s Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funds detailed $350 million in projects, many with energy efficiency and clean energy components. Preserving and renewing this infrastructure keeps 59 campuses warm, safe, and operating efficiently and effectively, and employs local laborers. CEEM is hopeful a bonding bill will find a successful pathway during a special session.
CEEM also worked this session on reforms to help strengthen Minnesota’s community solar garden program. Reforms will help create additional jobs, attract private investment, provide tax revenue for counties and townships across the state, improve rural electric grids, and help diversify farm-owner income.
About Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM): CEEM is an industry-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the business case for clean energy in Minnesota. CEEM provides a unified voice for clean energy business across the state. Our mission is to provide educational leadership, collaboration, and policy analysis that accelerates clean energy market growth and smart energy policies.