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Legislative update: What we’re watching in the final two weeks

The Minnesota House and Senate have passed their major energy packages, and negotiations are beginning on these and all areas of spending and policy. The legislature is set to adjourn on May 20, and, as usual, the majority of bills will be settled during the final weeks or days of session.

Most energy provisions are included in the omnibus jobs and energy bills passed by the House and Senate (HF 2208 and SF 2611).

Here’s an update on the bills that could have the biggest impact for Minnesota energy consumers.

Energy data for consumers

CUB is advancing a bill (HF 1683/SF 2054) that would unleash the power of energy use data in a way that protects ratepayers. The bill, carried by Representative Jamie Long and Senator David Senjem, would give consumers in all parts of the state equal right to access their own energy data and share anonymized energy data, so that groups like CUB can use it to find efficiencies and cost savings in the utility systems. (For example, the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois used such data to find an electric rate design that would save consumers $30 million.) You can read more about the bill here.

This bill was included in the House omnibus jobs and energy bill, so it is on the table during conference committee negotiations. 


Clean Energy First, and billions in costs and risks for ratepayers

The Clean Energy First Act (SF 1456), carried by Senator Senjem, would require that, before an electric utility could get approval to build a power plant, it must first analyze if it can meet its needs reliably and cost-effectively with clean energy resources. CUB spoke in favor the bill in early hearings.

However, language added to the Senate bill throughout the process has transformed it from a common-sense way to maximize carbon-free energy into a massive shift of costs and risks from large industry and utility shareholders onto consumers.

Specifically, the bill in its current form:

  • Transfers $467 million in electricity bills from the state’s biggest businesses onto Minnesotans by requiring that electric rates for large industrial customers be 20% below the national average. (Read more here.)
  • Transfers $1.6 billion in risks undertaken by utility investors onto ratepayers by mandating that Minnesotans pay off 100% of utilities’ debt on power plants that are retired early under a utility resource plan. It already costs Minnesota utilities more to operate existing coal plants than it would cost to build new power generation, because generation options like wind power have gotten so inexpensive. At least some of these coal plants are headed for early retirement. Utility investors are provided a rate of return for taking on exactly this kind of risk – because if they make a bad investment, there’s a chance they won’t earn their money back. The language currently in this bill transfers the risk onto ratepayers.

CUB is asking Senators to remove this anti-consumer language and return the bill to the original Clean Energy First purpose.

Clean Energy First was not included in the omnibus bill in the Senate. It is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. The House omnibus bill does include some of the original Clean Energy First provisions – without the anti-consumer portions.

Ask your legislators to put consumers first!

CUB is working hard as the sole advocate for residential ratepayers in most energy debates. And we need your help! Please contact your senators and ask them to put energy consumers first. The below email form makes it easy.

Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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