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More consideration needed of bill to reduce regulation of new power generation

A bill before the state Senate Energy and Utilities Committee today would eliminate a step in the regulatory process for constructing new large renewable energy facilities. While there may be ways to streamline regulation without weakening consumer protections, we must fully consider the consequences of a possibly significant change to the way Minnesota handles new energy production. For this reason, CUB does not support this bill.

The bill (SF 1706/HF 2052) would eliminate the requirement that large renewable generation facilities get a certificate of need from the Public Utilities Commission before construction. As written, the bill applies only to generation built by private developers, but an expected amendment would broaden it to include construction by Minnesota’s utilities, too.

Renewable energy has been and continues to be an excellent resource for Minnesota consumers. Wind is generally the cheapest source of new electricity generation; it has no emissions; and it requires no fuel, so while an increase in the price of natural gas could drive up electric costs in the future, the low price of wind generation is locked in from Day 1. In 2015, 21% of Minnesota’s electricity was generated from renewables. We look forward to seeing that number grow significantly in coming years.

However, there is a lot at stake in eliminating major utility regulations. It is in everybody’s interest to make Minnesota’s utility regulation as efficient as possible without exposing consumers to unnecessary risks, and there may be ways to improve regulatory efficiency here. However, the one week since the bill was introduced is far too little time to fully consider its possible effects.

On behalf of small consumers, CUB respectfully suggests the bill not be passed at this time. Given additional time, we would be happy to work with the renewable energy industry, utilities, and all stakeholders to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

 

Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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