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A Good Year for Energy Policy at the Minnesota Legislature

Published June 23, 2021

Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate followed the House of Representatives and passed this year’s package of energy policy and spending legislation. House File 6 combines commerce and energy provisions. (Energy policy is in Article 8 starting on page 98, if you’re digging into the full bill, or you can read a summary from nonpartisan House staff.) The bill is now headed to Governor Walz, who is expected to sign it. 

Overall, this was a good year for energy policy at the state capital.

With this bill, the legislature extends the Cold Weather Rule protections from shutoff for a month each winter. The Cold Weather Rule period will now begin October 1 and extend until April 30 of each year. For customers who are subject to disconnection, cooperative and municipal utilities may now do those disconnections remotely rather than having to visit a residence in person. The utilities also now must report when they disconnect customers. (Regulated utilities already do this.) CUB helped to negotiate this language with the utilities.

This means that, for the first time, we should have statewide data on the number of customers who have been shut off, including which utility territories are experiencing a lot of shutoffs. This kind of information is extremely valuable as CUB and others seek to ensure that consumer protection laws like the Cold Weather Rule are being followed and understand where assistance is most needed. 

The bill also:

  • Establishes an energy transition office in the Department of Employment and Economic Development to assist communities and workers where power plants are retiring, and establishes an advisory committee to develop a statewide energy transition plan;
  • Allows natural gas utilities to file plans with the Public Utilities Commission for “innovative resources” that displace conventional natural gas and reduce carbon, including renewable natural gas, hydrogen, and others;
  • Has funding for solar, including Solar on Schools and Solar on Community Colleges programs, and an extension of Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program;
  • Funds the Prairie Island Indian Community’s net zero energy community project;
  • Funds a state building energy conservation revolving loan fund; 
  • Funds a north Minneapolis clean energy training center;
  • And more.

Separate from this package, the legislature had already passed the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, a major update to utility conservation programs.  

The intervenor compensation bill that CUB has worked on this year to expand public interest representation at the Public Utilities Commission was not included in the final package. However, we’ve been in touch with legislative sponsors and will keep working on this in 2022.

Please help us thank the many legislative champions who moved these bills forward despite the extra hardships this year, and extend a special thank you to House Commerce Chair Zack Stephenson, House Energy Chair Jamie Long, and Senate Energy Chair David Senjem.

Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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