Recently, the Senate took action to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs from the state’s largest industry onto regular people.
On March 14, the Senate Energy Committee heard Senator David Senjem’s Clean Energy First Act (SF 1456). Clean Energy First was a carefully written bill that would require utilities to look first to clean energy resources before adding any fossil fuel power generation. It also has measures to help the workers and communities of power plants that are aging and will eventually close.
Clean Energy First is a common-sense bill with wide support. Utilities should have to use clean energy resources whenever they are cost effective and reliable. CUB supported a version of the bill last year, and we testified in favor of the bill in this hearing, as well. We still had concerns with a couple of specific provisions that hurt consumers but were optimistic those concerns could be resolved.
However, without prior notice, the committee heard and adopted amendments, authored by Senator Erik Simonson, that changed this bill into a massive cost shift onto residential and other non-industrial utility customers.
With these amendments, the bill now requires rates for the largest industrial electric customers to be at least 20% below the national average. That would result in an immediate $467 million cost shift per year. That’s an extra $250 for the average family who gets electricity from Minnesota Power. Another amendment prescribed that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) may only use “a single coincident peak methodology” and an “E8760 cost allocator.” Committee members acknowledged they did not know what these terms meant, and adopted the amendment regardless. The effect of this language is that the PUC can only consider calculations that result in very low rates for industry and higher rates for residential customers, and that the PUC is barred from considering the calculations that other parties typically put forward — or whether families could afford these huge rate increases.
Unfortunately, as of the time this post was published, the amendments haven’t been posted on the Senate website. That means they are only available to people who attended the hearing and got paper copies.
The bill has not yet been passed out of the energy committee, and CUB will be working hard to help lawmakers understand the effects of the changes they mad. We hope to be able to work with senators to remove these provisions and return the bill to the “clean energy first” principles.
But we need your help! Legislators need to hear from their constituents as soon as possible.
Please contact your senator and representative today and ask them not to saddle regular people with industry’s energy bills.